Dinner with a Cannes panelist



Let’s set the stage: my name is Danielle Trivisonno Hawley, I’m a female creative director in a very male dominated industry. I’m in Cannes and I’m 6.5 months pregnant. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hearing 4 esteemed creative women discuss gender bias in our industry, a topic particularly important, relevant and timely for me and my growing belly. And later the night, one of those women happened to buy me dinner.

Tuesday, June 22nd
I truck it up to the balcony to grab a seat for a panel discussion featuring, Martha Stewart, Carol Lam, Gail Heiman and Kimberly Kadlec. They’re speaking on how to achieve better equality in our industry. The audience learns that less than 3% of the top positions in creative are held by women. Further, only 47 were chosen to be among this year’s Cannes jurors.
But why? The panel couldn’t say, nor did they have an idea for how to fix it. Our female Wunderman young lions had no answers and neither did I.

Hours following the panel, while sipping rose at the hotel du cap with my CEO, Shane Atchison, two women joined us. One of them turned out to be Gail Heiman (Did I mention evenings always take an interesting turn when Shane’s around?) I now found myself in Cannes. A female, pregnant creative director, on the cusp of wandering off into a night of strange summer solstice antics – with a prestigious Cannes panel member who’d just spoken (seemingly straight to me) about what it’s like being a mom and a high powered AD exec. Was this for real? Together, Gail, her adorable friend Emma and I embarked on an evening with our male counterparts that mimicked the agency gender balance – or lack there of – to its fullest.

We weaved through drunken crowds, navigated male-focused conversations and even managed to trump our company with wit and banter that broke the dialogue into hysterics. I already admired Gail, but getting to see her in action was something way beyond a happy accident. This woman can truly hold her own – sharp as a tac, quick with the off-handed comment and a powerful awareness of when to poke the beasts at the table and when to retreat for her female companions. It was artful, really – a cultural snapshot of how Gail Heiman has earned the respect and admiration from men and women collegues alike.

As the evening slurred and twisted with typical Cannes fun for our group, i began to recognize a newly found maternal radar- as crowds of inebriated bodies and broken glass became a bit too close to my growing child, I knew it was time for me to go home. This of course at 2am was expected for someone in my condition. But what I didn’t expect was to be pleasantly reminded of what makes women so fascinating. Gail and Emma needed no explanation or words regarding my needs. Within minutes, I was whisked into their driver’s black Mercedes en route to the gray d’albion. Emma whispered to me as we we arrived at the hotel, “The sisterhood is a global reality.”

Indeed it is. Perhaps like anything women have accomplished to date, we can change the lack of creative positions through what we do best- support each other with no need for explanation. The truth is, we don’t need to be like the boys. In fact, we don’t need to be anything more than what our gender innately offers. The industry and consumers themselves are asking for it. It’s not about breaking a glass ceiling with guts alone – It’s about banding together to be nothing more than who we are. Women. With intuition, insight, and a very deep understanding of what others need and desire.

I’d like to thank Gail for a delicious dinner and for the pleasant reminder of why I (and the rest of our young and female talent) add value. Should you get the chance to share a meal with this fine woman, be sure to ask her what being trapped under a table with Bill Gates during a 6.5 earthquake was really like. Her storytelling ability will not disappoint.

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