Spikes Asia is running its first edition of the See It Be It programme this year, and today is the last day to enter. Here, Pimwadee Lai, creative director at R/GA Singapore, explains why the programme is much needed, and why she’s applying.
All over the world, women are vastly underrepresented in even the lowest level of executive leadership roles. The number of female leaders in Asia? Few and far between. The number of female Asian creative leaders? Even fewer still.
And yet, you might look up from your screen to the woman running your office and think, what are you talking about? I’m surrounded by female directors and managers.
But the numbers don’t lie. On average, gender inequality is greater and more entrenched in Asia than it is in the West. So much so that it's leading women to unconscious self-limiting choices that ensure the problem persists.
A study that compared the psychological perception of gender inequality between Hong Kong Chinese women and European American women found that the former were more accepting of gender inequality, perceiving it as less unjust and unfair than their Western counterparts. And while the rest of the world has not only been openly talking about the problem of underrepresentation for some time, and actively addressing it with initiatives like The 3% Movement and Creative Equals, Asia has been slow to respond.
When inequality is so normalized, and support networks for creative women so few, is it any wonder so many of us don’t have faith in our abilities to achieve?
That’s why the arrival of See It Be It at Spikes this year is so important.
See It Be It is the Cannes Lions initiative founded on the principle that, because creative leadership positions are predominantly held by men, women don’t expect to achieve them, and that in turn becomes one of the reasons they don’t. The main aim of the program is therefore to bring up-and-coming female creatives together with inspirational female creative leaders - because if they can see it, they can be it.
The week-long, intensive development program is designed to help accelerate their path to leadership, and as any of the 100+ women who’ve taken part will tell you, it’s life-changing.
Over the years, See It Be It has shone a much-needed spotlight on the issue, and is taking action by instigating change, giving female creatives a platform where their potential and ambitions are supported; a platform where they can be seen and heard. A place where strong female creative leads is the norm, not the exception.
It also connects participants to a network of strong, brilliant leaders who they can look up to, relate to, and draw confidence and inspiration from long after the program concludes. That connection and support is ongoing and always paid-forward - participants stay in contact with the women they meet, and in turn pass on what they’ve learned by mentoring others.
I think mentorship is probably one of the most powerful outcomes of See It Be It, and the key to solving the issue of underrepresentation in Asia. That’s why I’m already mentoring our creative and UX team, and a young Creative Technologist, helping her navigate her career and develop skills beyond her technical ones. In her, I see some of the struggles I face - we’re both incredibly focused on work, pushing for the best ideas and execution. But it’s not enough if no one gets the chance to see the incredible work that we do. We need to also be able to confidently talk about it and not shy away from putting ourselves forward.
I’ve applied for See It Be It because I want to continue mentoring and championing female creative leadership, and get better at it. I see the program as a chance to proudly speak about my success and share my struggles, to influence and inspire others in ways I wished I had been early on in my career.
I’d encourage anyone who’s ever doubted themselves - who might have let the thought of, “I didn’t think I could do it” stop them - to apply too. Because for every success story, there are countless others who may never hit the target, but who far surpassed their previous (perceived) limitations by simply trying.
And even if I don’t make the cut, completing the entry has made me take stock of what I’ve accomplished so far and helped me realise what more I can accomplish in the future.
Pimwadee Lai is creative director at R/GA Singapore.