Karen Stacey
Jun 18, 2024

Sexual harassment at Cannes: A 'difficult yet essential subject'

People need to trust that employers, event organisers and others with a duty of care are looking out for them, says Digital Cinema Media's Karen Stacey.

Sexual harassment at Cannes: A 'difficult yet essential subject'

There are a lot of inspiring lessons to be learned at Cannes, but we shouldn't ever let the hectic schedule and fun make us lose sight of what is truly important; taking personal responsibility for our actions, and taking responsibility for those around us.

So, before we all get our delegate badges and start scheduling talks and seminars, it’s vital that we’re all fully educated about this difficult yet essential subject. This isn’t just for visitors and
managers on the ground, it goes for senior leaders back home, too.

We know that, sadly, sexual harassment still exists and it can happen anywhere, but the risks rise when alcohol is free-flowing and people are away from home. We also know that what starts as a fun trip can quickly become a nightmare for anyone who experiences sexual harassment.

That’s why this year, Cannes Lions has teamed up with TimeTo and Wildstorm PR to create an invaluable guide to understanding the issues around sexual harassment. Not just in Cannes, but anywhere outside of the office where the drink is flowing and the inhibitions are dropping.

The move is designed to create and foster a supportive environment of respect and accountability, where anyone attending in any capacity feels secure and empowered to enjoy themselves safely and to speak up about sexual harassment, should they need to.

The onus shouldn't solely be on individuals. People need to trust that employers, event organisers and others with a duty of care are looking out for them. Everyone attending must play a part in addressing this issue – either by stepping in if they see it happening, or stopping if they are perpetrating it.

That is what this guide does so well. It helps navigate the grey areas around sexual harassment by splitting its core messaging into three distinct sections tailored to employers, employees and delegates. Each section offers a specific focus for that audience and provides guidance for before, during, and after the festival.

Examples of guidance include advice before Cannes for senior leaders, managers and HR to establish and make clear policies and procedures; ensuring policies including anti-harassment guidance; outlining what constitutes harassment; the consequences for engaging in such behaviour; and the procedures for reporting incidents.

It also offers helpful advice for all attendees at Cannes, including connecting with others and having a support system for uncomfortable situations. This year, the WACL Empower Café provides a safe space for those affected by sexual harassment, offering guidance on the next steps alongside the guide's information.

Additionally, it addresses the barriers to reporting sexual harassment. Incidents that occur at the event may not be reported until participants have returned to the UK, highlighting the importance of creating a supportive environment in the moment for any disclosures.

If you notice a friend or colleague behaving in a way that's offensive or inappropriate, and you feel safe addressing it, speak up. You can let them know that their behaviour isn't acceptable and point out the impact. Sometimes, people need a new perspective on their actions.

So, when you’re packing your slides or flip-flops and sunscreen or picking up your lanyard, grab the guide as well.

But if you really feel you won’t get anything from it or that you don't have the time, then maybe just take a few seconds while you're at passport control or queueing for croissants and think about these things:

  • Take the safety of your team seriously
  • Lead by example
  • Put guardrails in place
  • Take your own safety seriously
  • Treat people politely and like human beings
  • Don’t make people feel awkward – don't force them to have another drink, listen to what they are saying and read their responses.

It's basically as simple as treating everyone you meet with respect.

Karen Stacey is the chief executive of Digital Cinema Media, and outgoing vice-president and incoming president of WACL.


Campaign UK

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