Words by Leah Mababangloob, Senior Art Director, LEGO System A/S, Denmark 

Photos by Getty Images @ Cannes Lions 2018

CANNES – Two years ago, when I found out about See It Be It, I didn’t think twice forwarding the link to my esteemed female friends in the industry, one of them was Knox Balbastro. In fact, she cited me in her adobo interview when she got in. I don’t know why I didn’t think of applying back then. I almost missed my chance this year, had it not for Knox’s post on Facebook reminding me of the deadline. And so as fate (or luck or whatever you call it) will have it, it is now my turn to cite her. I am truly amazed by how things seem to have come full circle and how this inarguably demonstrates what female friendships can do.

“You can’t be what you can’t see” – the founders of the See It Be It initiative cannot be more right. Women make up 49% of the workforce in advertising but only 11% are creative directors. In the introductory session it was pointed out that while there is no disparity among young creatives in the Young Lions competitions in terms of gender, it’s another story in the jury room. Something happens along the way from being a young creative to being a top-level creative and though it’s a herculean task, the SIBI program aspires to address this issue by calling attention to it and urging the industry for action.

In the 4-day program, I interfaced with so many inspiring people that I wouldn’t have had personal access to otherwise. It never escaped me for a moment the immense privilege to be able to hear directly from some of the most formidable minds in the industry like Louise Benson, Madonna Badger, David Droga, Colleen DeCourcy, Tea Uglow, Laura Maness and the founders of the 3% Movement Kat Gordon and Lisen Stromberg and Spotify’s Danielle Lee, to name a few. The theme ‘Leadership from within’ was explored and expounded thoroughly by our amazing ambassador Chloe Gottlieb who led us to a place where it was open to discuss and safe to exchange ideas, stories, and even silences, when we need it most. I was blown away by inspiration but more so by the realness of it all.

The mentorship program is said to be the heart of SIBI. And it truly was an overflow of transference of knowledge, experiences and without a doubt, of courage. I was fortunate to be paired with Google Director Sadie Thoma, Ogilvy Mumbai CCO Kainaz Karmakar and Spotify VP for Brand and Creative Jackie Jantos. Listening to each one is already a privilege but having them listen to me is just out-of-this-world. I will never get this kind of platform, ever, not even in my wildest dreams! And for a first-timer to the festival, this chance to converse and engage with these leaders is truly extraordinary.

I came to the program expecting to take away pointers on how I can better navigate my career, meet extremely talented people in the industry, get tips to becoming more confident and outspoken – and though I did get all of these profoundly, I went home with so much more. I found myself a wolf pack – the name we very unanimously decided to call our collective, (inspired by Abby Wambach, Olympic gold medalist and Activist – look up her commencement speech!), to remind us to be bold, trust our instincts and despite obstacles, take control of our paths. To instill in us that resilience is a muscle and vulnerability is courage and how we are all on the same boat – just in different waters.

To quote Jaclyn Johnson, “Behind every great woman, are great women.” And if there is one key takeaway to the whole See It Be It experience, it is that – in a world of imbalance and under representation, we are our best allies, our best teachers, our best cheerleaders. We are our best chance to encourage equality. And though this industry is but a small fraction of the world, its ripple effect is one we have seen many times able to provoke change. If only for that, I implore us to try harder, speak up louder, get out there, together.

 
Leah started out as a digital art director and has since worked in different advertising agencies in the Philippines and Singapore before moving to Denmark. She considers landing a job in LEGO a dream come true and fell in love with the company’s mantra “Only the best is good enough”. She thinks being creative is mostly being brave – and that being brave can be learned and even passed on.
 
See It Be It is a Cannes Lions initiative that addresses the gender imbalance in senior creative leadership. The initiative believes that greater diversity across the industry leads to better, more representative work, and that this has the power to create a better world.
 
Click here for the story announcing Leah joining the See It Be It 2018 programme.