CANNES — The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has expanded its efforts to support gender equality by implementing new criteria for jurors, aiming to prohibit submissions reflecting gender bias and inequality. The organization cites empathy as the main criteria to use when analyzing the advertising and communications award entries. 

Jurors are asked to use empathy when reviewing submissions, and are encouraged to consider how they'd feel if the person portrayed were themselves, their children, siblings or parents. If they feel an image shows signs of gender bias, they must speak up and object. Jurors are also asked to 'use their hearts and mind to determine if the submission is acceptable.'

To ensure the criteria is honored, judges will follow new guidelines such as signing off on every piece of work before shortlists are finalized and published, making them openly responsible for decisions. In addition, Cannes Lions has reduced jury sizes, amplifying the weight each juror carries and ensuring that discussions are focused and debate quality is high. 

"Each piece of work listed on the shortlists and winners lists will be published in the name of the jury members. Effectively, they are standing up and affirming that they believe the work does not objectify or perpetuate gender bias," said Louise Benson, executive festival director of Lions Health, Lions Entertainment and Eurobest. "The work the jurors award reflects and acts as a guide for the industry."

The 3% Movement, an organization advocating for agencies and brands to support female and diverse creative leadership while eliminating bias of any kind, has applauded Cannes Lions' move. 

"The 3% Movement congratulates Cannes Lions for its new stipulations against negative or objectifying work," says Kat Gordon, founder of the organization. "The language added to the Cannes rules that ask jurors to do a gut check around the respectability of ad portrayals, belongs on every ad agency creative brief. There is no place for objectification of any person in modern media."

Gordon notes that it was Madonna Badger, chief creative officer of Badger & Winters, who raised the issue with festival organizers. Badger is also an ambassador for Cannes Lions' See It Be It Programme, which supports female creatives by encouraging advocacy for industry wide gender equality. After further discussion with Benson and awards director Simon Cook, the criteria revamp came to fruition. 

Cannes Lions draws over 43,000 global entries that are showcased at the eight-day festival. Approximately 15,00 attendees come from nearly 100 countries for workshops, exhibitions, screenings, classes and seminars presented by industry leaders.