This year’s Dubai Lynx festival has more of a female focus, with an improved women-to-men jury ratio, big-name speakers and the regional launch of See It Be It

By Jose Papa, managing director of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

This year at Dubai Lynx there is a decidedly female focus with the largest number of women ever on the Festival juries and the introduction of the See It Be It programme. See It Be It is a Cannes Lions initiative designed to elevate women working in the MENA creative industries and accelerate them down the path to leadership.

For the 2018 Dubai Lynx Awards, 46.9 per cent of the combined juries are made up of female leaders, up from 43.5 per cent in 2017. Five of the jury presidents are women: Creative Effectiveness president Nadja Bellan-White, EVP, global brand management, Ogilvy & Mather; PR president Kat Thomas, global ECD & founder, One Green Bean; Innovation president Nadya Powell, co-founder, Utopia; Film Craft president Sandrine Huijgen, creative partner, Cloudfactory; and Design president Sue Daun, ECD, Interbrand.

The progress made by the Festival towards achieving a more equal balance of jury members is reinforced by initiatives designed to expand on the concept of leaders fostering and nurturing others along their careers and developing a community to share knowledge and support.

One such initiative is the See It Be It programme, powered by Neutrogena, an experience that raises profiles, expands contacts, builds confidence and accelerates participants down the path to leadership.

The programme is for women based in the MENA region working in the branded communications industry, or for those who have an interest in a career in the field. During the Festival the group of successful applicants experience a curated programme of main-stage seminars, specially designed workshops, behind-the-scenes access to the jury rooms and one-to-one mentoring from the most respected, inspiring industry leaders, as well as exclusive networking opportunities.

Complementing the See It Be It schedule of events is a session on the main Festival stage hosted by Neutrogena and a workshop led by Innovation jury president Nadya Powell and Sakshi Choudhary, creative supervisor at Ogilvy Mumbai and previous participant of See It Be It at Cannes Lions 2017. The workshop explores the steps required to make female empowerment and equal representation an everyday reality. The sessions will encourage the audience to share their experiences of leadership and recognise how it can implement change within businesses.

Choudhary’s involvement with See It Be It Dubai demonstrates the immediate and tangible benefits the programme can bring, not just to individuals but to business. Discussing the network and leadership skills gained, Choudhary said: “When you see a world where only male leaders exist, it is almost impossible to visualise yourself in those roles. And you feel you don’t belong there. See It Be It provided me with access to some truly inspiring role models. As they shared their perfectly imperfect personal journeys, I started envisioning mine. For the very first time, I realised I could lead too, fearlessly, with what I thought were my two big weaknesses – an overtly sensitive nature and a meek voice. I now feel personally responsible to share this idea of leadership with other women and nurture them to reach their best potential. I am working towards creating a community of mentors who can take promising young women to where they really belong – the very top of our business.”

The theme of strong female leaders continues throughout the Festival content with a series of talks from a global range of speakers including: Anne de Schweinitz, global managing director, healthcare, FleishmanHillard; Ilkay Gurpinar, chief creative officer, TBWA\Istanbul; Hatoon Kadi, script writer and host of Noon Alniswa show, Uturn Entertainment; Jen Heazlewood, creative director, R/GA London; Naila Fattouh, head of strategic planning, FP7/CAI; and Reem Hameed, co-host of The Dukkan Show.

The IAA UAE Chapter will shine a spotlight on its female members by looking at what empowerment really means and what the word embodies for women and brands. Among the high profile brands present at this year’s Festival, Nissan will use its #SheDrives project to explore how the recently lifted ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, part of the Saudi Vision 2030, is a signal to the industry to reframe how the car company communicates with women in the region.

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