Fi, She?!

There are some questions the industry needs to ask about how it sees women within its ranks and in the world outside, writes Vidya Manmohan, executive creative director at Grey Dubai

Depending on your understanding of Arabic, you can interpret the combination of words in the headline, “Fi, She?!” in a number of different ways, just like many interpret the role of women in different industries.

Strangely enough, gender equality and women’s rights seem to be hot topics in the world today. I wonder why. Fi, she? Is everything ok?

Immediately after my advertising degree I was welcomed into one of the most creative hot shops in the region with open arms. Needless to say, I was the only female in the department. But I was mentored and guided like any other person would have been. I didn’t feel any different when it came to overnights, weekends away, winning awards or building my career.

However, like most Dubai-raised children, I was blissfully unaware of the real world we lived in. Only as I began moving out of my cocoon did I realise that things didn’t quite match up somewhere. Something was indeed fishy.

There was the looming big boys’ club. The growing gap in remuneration. The not-so-understandable extravagant lifestyle. And owning an image that didn’t quite match the work.

We have come a long way from all of that, but we still have miles to go before we can claim that women are being treated fairly and equally.

From my limited years of existence, I have learned one thing: a brilliant idea rises above all else. Every individual is unique and brings a whole new dimension to the world, regardless of whether they are a woman or a man. And just like building a family, to drive a thriving organisation takes belief, understanding, trust and the mojo to constantly turn things around.

My two cents to all the women out there who are fascinated by the industry that we work in would be to say that the time has never been better to bring some purpose to the brands we sell. Don’t get consumed by the industry monsters, jargon or technology; instead give consumers a reason to believe in this world. And simply do that in the most refreshing way.

As women, if we ourselves don’t drive that change, don’t expect someone else to do it for us. And it starts right here with the work that we produce. It’s time we changed the way we are portrayed in our own commercials. Let’s change the way research is conducted on us. It is no longer about showing who women in the region would like to be, but about letting the world know who we truly and proudly are. It’s not about turning the tables, but rather about understanding one another and creating campaigns that go beyond stereotypes and gender; campaigns that have a bigger purpose and can change the quality of lives.

Unfortunately, stereotypical portrayals of women in advertising persist. They are unrealistic, unchallenging, one-dimensional and offensive. As an industry, we are creating female characters that simply do not exist. This needs to end.

Yes, taking care of family comes naturally to a woman. But does that mean we should place her in a box and target her with a reflection of herself? Look around. Are the women you see not capable of anything more? Why should men drive around in fancy cars while women do all the laundry? I mean, in commercials. As an industry, it’s time we liberated the potential of the amazing women around us.

We are all guilty of creating this world we live in. Only where there is respect and love will there be prosperity and happiness. So, let’s not shhhhhh… the ‘she’ (Fi ‘She’). Let’s celebrate us and let it shine in the work we do.