Woman Up was launched by R/GA London in 2016 to drive culture change within the agency and challenge unconscious bias in every aspect of work. Over the last 12 months WUP has created forums for conversation around gender and diversity, built a platform for new voices, advocated for policy change and worked to empower female talent across the business.
This week, Woman Up ran its first Breakfast Session of 2017 at R/GA London’s new connected office space, which is fast becoming a hub for both diversity and design-led initiatives in London. This session was hosted by Kieran Kenlock (Community Manager at R/GA) & guest speaker Vince Aidoo. They presented manISH - @wearemanish on instagram - a social enterprise that supports adolescents on the road to adulthood and questions norms around hypermasculinity. Vince spoke about the challenges that young men face today, in terms of poor physical and mental health, rising unemployment and the culturally ingrained pressure to hide their emotions and present a ‘strong’ persona to the world. Let us not forget that suicide continues to be the highest killer of men under 45 in the UK. manISH was set up to give young people a Platform, Preparation for life and to promote their welfare through Philanthropy. After a short presentation, Kieran offered a provocation to the forum - ‘Men don’t cry. Do they?’ - and the discussion kicked off. Thoughts ranged from the stigma surrounding mental health at work, to the different kind of tears we all shed (or don’t) and the pain of keeping depression and anxiety hidden. Comparisons were drawn with the US by American colleagues who notice how difficult it seems to talk openly about our emotions in the UK. Men spoke up about fatherhood and friendship, and about not having a language to reach out and ask for help. And Women talked for example about the way tears can quickly be boxed up as ‘hysterical’. Together we thought about how we might, as a collective, begin to take responsibility for better fellowship in our day to day working lives.
Inspired by manISH, Woman Up pledges to work closely on key communications around well-being and resources, to stay awake to representations of men in our creative work and to work towards the launch of an internal initiative to encourage a more honest answer to the all too often throwaway question, ‘how are you?’. Watch this space for more updates on Woman UP from London.