CANNES—Companies should reflect the people they serve, said Unilever chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed at a Weber Shandwick panel in Cannes yesterday, noting that they currently represent a "bizarre distortion" of the world.
Reflecting one of the year's critical themes at Cannes, the panel focused on the possibility of genuine gender equality by 2030 and also featured UN Women senior advisor and #HeForShe campaign head Elizabeth Nyamayaro and Entourage star Adrian Grenier.
Weed pointed out that 77% of Unilever's sales come from women, who also account for more than half of agricultural farming production. However, just 1% of agricultural land is owned by women.
"By 2030 - these are the imbalances, we have to go beyond looking at the companies," said Weed. "By 2030, I hope businesses reflect the world; right now it’s a really bizarre distortion of the world."
Nyamayaro added that real change would only come from engaging men as well as women, in line with the #HeForShe campaign's goals. "Inequality is a very complex thing," she said. "It’s only when you shift your perception that you realise you are living in an unequal world."
Nyamayaro praised Accor and Unilever for their efforts to tackle gender equality, noting that without corporate involvement, such initiatives would ultimately fail. But she also said that when it comes to government, quotas are probably required to address the gender imbalance.
At Unilever, said Weed, the company uses a 'balanced slate' approach to hiring, rather than quotes. He is currently hiring an SVP of marketing (to replace Marc Mathieu after his departure for Samsung), and company policy requires an equal number of men and women to be considered for the role.
Rather than trying to make "white Anglo-Saxon men" understand diversity better, said Weed, " you can just start with more diverse people." When it comes to marketing, meanwhile, Weed pointed to Dove's repositioning as an example of how a brand could "take the debate forward".
Grenier, meanwhile, faced questions for his role in Entourage, a TV series and movie that is notorious for its objectification of women. He responsed by saying that the "perceived misogyny of the Entourage brand" is "not entirely accurate," adding that both companies and consumers need to tackle the issue.
"We need to challenge the Unilevers of this world to make better and more inspiring content," said Grenier. "But also we need to require people to come to the table and be better consumers of media. To think critically when they see something."
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