Owned by Women / Run by Women

Owned by Women
Run by Women


Hello everybody and welcome to day two of Ciclope festival.

The past two years have seen a tremendous amount of discussion about women and their voices. In advertising, through social movements and industry-wide initiatives, women’s points of view have been pushed to the forefront, focusing our attention on the importance of women in creative roles. However, the women’s points of view on the production side have been relatively ignored. The following panel will discuss why now, more than ever, it is important to continue to drive the conversation about equality forward.

So let’s welcome Megan Kelly, Managing Partner and Executive Producer of Honor Society; Emma Daines, Group Managing Director and Executive Producer at Fin Design and Effects; and Jessica Kersten, Creative Director at Cloud Factory.

Megan: Good morning. Thank you for joining us. So our panel today has a few purposes. First is to introduce you to OWNED, an international coalition of women run companies. The second is to open a discussion about women leadership in our industry. Essentially, women owned companies make up less than 30% of the companies we work with in this industry. We are seeking parity and are not asking you to make us a quota or to force you to bid with us. We’d like to discuss the importance of having more female and diverse voices within the advertising pipeline.

With 85 per cent of consumer decisions being made by women and a rising generation Z it seems essential that we start to think about how our ads are made, and working together.

So I’d like to welcome our guests today: Ingrid, who didn’t get introduced at first, we added at the last minute – Ingrid Bragemann has owned Tantor films in Chile for 16 years and her company provides production services in six countries in Latin America and now in Spain.

Emma Daines; Emma is the founder of the visual effects company Fin Design and Effects, which was established in Sydney and has offices in Shanghai, Melbourne and Singapore. With a background of VFX producing Emma founded her company 18 years ago with a team of five; Fin is now an internationally recognized VFX company with 70 people strong.

Jessica Karsten; Jessica is the founder, partner and creative director for the Cloud Factory agency in Amsterdam. Prior to opening the Cloud Factory seven years ago, Jessica was a creative director at DDB.

And I’m Megan Kelly, I’m the founder of the three-year-old production company Honor Society, which is in New York and LA.

So the first question I would like to ask everybody is: What made you start your own company?

Ingrid: Well my story is beautiful because I was championed by two very intelligent and nice British men sixteen years ago who motivated me to start my company in the most beautiful way. I was working for them as an Executive Producer selling their international directors in the Latin American market, but for personal reasons they had to leave back for the UK. When they went, they left me a letter, the office with all the furniture and everything and said, “Ingrid you’re perfectly able to do this alone and we really believe you will so we left you all of this and the representation of all of the directors, so please just go ahead and set up your own company.”

But I didn’t do it at that precise moment, because I was a little bit afraid of doing a company alone, especially in our industry. So I went to work with another company in Chile, a male owned company with two very strong men above me, and they never gave me any space to create my own things, to do what I wanted. When I tried do the things I wanted; like include Latin America in the game, or to work with Europe, they thought it was too crazy, too difficult. They just didn’t understand it. At some point I decided that the only way I could really do what I wanted to do would be to have my own company and that’s how I started.



Jessica: I worked at DDB for a long time, about eleven years or so, and I had amazing men helping and encouraging me, and I tried to find my own voice. But, of course at a certain point you want to grow, you really have to find your own processes of working, different, more practical ways of working. My way, with less process, less meetings and more making, is what motivated me to start Cloud Factory – we started from scratch, working with a lot of crafts people, and that is still in our DNA today. We have our own craft space, and sometimes we’re in a meeting and there’s welding going on next to our office. We just make stuff all the time and experiment, that’s really how I have found my own way of working, that’s why I had to do this.


Emma: I’d left my previous employer pretty burnt out and thought I’d go freelance and take stock. I was a bit embittered about how the previous company had run their business, and I felt that a lot of talented artists were disrespected; we worked tirelessly for this company and for its own success and we weren’t very well rewarded. I was convinced there was a better way of doing it and I felt that there was room for a company that was about the talent, about the creative and about working with like-minded people in a positive and stimulating environment.

A former colleague and friend of mine approached me and asked me to help him set up an editing company in Sydney, but I turned to him and said, “no, let’s open a boutique visual effects company and let’s make it all about the talent, about the craft, the service, and the experience, and so we did.” That was 18 years ago, and five years into that I bought that partner out and yeah!!, that’s how I started Fin.

Megan: And for me I was brought into a company to start their live-action division and was really successful at that. It was an older company and the owner of the company was a bit disrespectful and one day when we were having a creative discussion about the future of the business, and he essentially screamed at me that this was his company and I needed to do it his way! That was the way it was!, except there was a lot of profanity in there – and he was this close to my face and I said okay, why am I doing this for you? Why am I making money for you when I can go off and do this on my own terms, with my own vision and do it my way? And so yeah!! We all have a different ways of starting this.

So, Ingrid what made you come up with this idea for OWNED, what was the genesis of this; it was at Cannes right?

Ingrid: Yes, it was at Cannes this year. I went to some of the panels that were around, about women. There was a lot of debate about female power in the industry, why women are not doing more or why women should be getting privileges in different areas of our pipeline, just for being women. I thought, it’s not necessary to get this just because you’re a woman. The question is not if you’re a woman or a man, it’s that being a woman is a natural thing, and as a human you have the right to start a company. [Men and women] compliment each other when we work together.

We are not the same, but professionally we are not different. It was a beautiful causality that one of those days in Cannes there was an award for a very important corporation and the manager was introduced to me.

We talked about women working in different areas of the industry and he said, “it’s weird, but I have never seen a network of women owned companies,” and I thought, we should create one, one that is a very positive and inclusive and comes with another perspective to the whole female discussion, and that’s why we started OWNED. Beautifully we already have many members, and we haven’t even fully launched it yet.


When talking with Megan about creating this network – she said well I think that there must be lists that exists of female owned companies in the States – but everybody I have talked to, doesn’t know how to find them, or where to find them so why don’t we put it all in one place so people can find us if they would like to!


Megan: Emma, I will start this question with you but I think everybody can answer; why do you feel it’s necessary, or, do you feel it’s not necessary, to talk about gender? Why not be judged on the work that you’re doing rather than who you are?

Emma: I definitely think we should be judged on the work that we’re doing and by our own merit. I think we absolutely should be. I think the gender discussion is because of the clear imbalance of the male-female ratio in the industry. I think that we have to have the gender discussion so we can actually all gather together as a unit and work out how we can actually create more balance between male and female. Men AND women have had to have strength, ambition, resilience and a lot of energy to set up our own companies. I think we’re all sitting here because as females, women who own businesses, we can put ourselves as an example of the fact that it can be done and to encourage other women by sharing what we have done.”


Ingrid: Thank You!

Megan: Jessica did you want to say something?

Jessica: Well I think it’s important that we have this discussion; I can only speak as a creative –
I have always been in the creative department and only had guys around me, which I have always been fine with, and it has always worked. I teamed up with a guy, and it worked out really well. But of course there is very specific male work out there and I think I always felt I made a different kind of work and I didn’t want to adjust myself to a certain way of working. I think women will bring a different colour to the industry, fresh energy and different perspectives, because it is true that men and women are very different and that’s a good thing. We definitely don’t always understand each other and that’s why I think it’s important that women are our target audience just as much as men are, and I just think it is smart for companies to have more women involved; to also have their perspective on briefs so we come up with different solutions, and as a result there will also be more space for female directors to also give their energy to it. I think this will bring a bigger variety of work out of the pipeline, if we mix it up more.”

Megan: And Ingrid did you want to add to that?

Ingrid: Yes, I said before I really think that working together, and growing more, new women owned companies is the next thing, we get younger guys and girls that can start a way of thinking which is different and where there is no question of if it’s a man or a woman, its just that we do it together, we do it in another way; we embrace, we mentor, we love everyone the same way and when they see that, they will also feel encouraged to do their own thing without discrimination and especially without this sort of war between men and women which is happening everywhere, and which actually is not helping the industry or society.

Megan: I mean I think that we have to acknowledge that we have a diversity issue within this industry and that we need a little bit more perspective; that sometimes if we don’t start talking about the fact that we don’t have equality and that we are 51% of the population and somehow we are owning less than 30% of the companies and that a lot of women are running companies but not owning a piece of that.

It’s just a conversation and if we don’t start to talk about it; if we don’t acknowledge it and we keep pretending that everybody is equal then nothing ever changes. I don’t think anybody’s pushing or asking anybody to make revolutionary changes but I think we are all asking for you to think about it a little bit more. I think it’s important to bring that up, to at least acknowledge that, hey, you know maybe we have a problem, maybe there are solutions here that we can think of together.

Jessica, you hit on this a little bit, within the past two years there’s been a lot of focus on women directors and creatives, why do you think it is important for brands to consider women owners in the pipeline of advertising production in addition to creatives and directors?


Jessica : Well I think if you’re a female owner you can give a different perspective. Because, of course in the career of a woman, when she is between her 30s and 40s this is the top of her career, but it is also when she has kids. It is important to understand that somehow most of the time, the women are the ones who take a step back, but if you, as an owner of a company can also allow men to pick up the kids from school, or stay home when the kid is sick, it’s not always a woman who has to do it. We can share the work together and then that lets a marriage also be a team. If a company doesn’t give you that space a lot of time the woman will be the first to raise their hands, so I think that if we help in a practical sense and trust our employees that they are responsible, that say they go home early on Friday afternoons to pick up the kids they will also be responsible to deliver the presentation or whatever work needs to be done.

I think this needs to change, so women can go back to work and that all the financial pressure is not on the men to be the provider for the home, I think it’s much healthier to have balance in this.

Megan: Emma how do you feel that brands can benefit from using women own companies?

Emma: I actually think that brands would benefit from equal gender balance, I think we have touched on it before, as both men and women have different perspectives, so I think it’s more important that the brands are actually working with a balance of both men and women, be it either women owned or men owned company. So yes, as Jessica was saying I also think it’s about the different perspectives that both women and some men bring to the industry and into the company.

Ingrid: I would like to add that when you build a company it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man or whatever you are you, you are building a space for constructing new things, you’re participating in society as a whole and you are creating a community. Therefore if you give women more chances to also create companies you are creating new spaces, opportunities for communication of communities, of creation, so it makes the whole world balance better, and allowing more participation of all our voices and as Jessica said before we are the bigger consumer decision makers, making 85% of the decisions. So it’s not just about justice but also about being clever, because you would reach the target faster and have a more balanced society, where were not always waiting for the other, but more just two people understanding each other and complimenting each other at the company, at the house, in the relationship.


Megan: Jessica, you had mentioned that you had heard a fact at Cannes, about women products – but being targeted at men – do you remember exactly what?

Jessica: Yes, it was something along the lines that women are not always targeted for certain products, which I find very strange, especially, for instance, cars. At an agency the car briefs would always go to the guys, which I found totally unfair, as I drive a Jaguar and I like nice cars! Women also often decide which car to purchase in the household. I think that it would make the industry more interesting in that sense, if women also got to work on what are presumed to be male briefs.

Megan: Right, I think that goes for female directors too, that women don’t just have to be doing tampon commercials and mascara!

Jessica: The Pampers ads, those briefs should go to the guys!

Megan: We do buy other things, guys!!


Megan: So, why is it important to include women in OWNED who aren’t full owners or majority stake holders in companies but who are partners and partial owners? What do you think is
brought to the table to include these other women?

Ingrid: Me?

Megan: Yes Ingrid.

Ingrid: Well, first of all, the discussion about percentages starts because there is an existing organization in the United States that gives a lot of advantages to women that own 50% or more of a company and when we were discussing this, we realized that it’s not really that important what percentage you have, percentage has something to do with the kind of business you’re doing.

Sometimes a 10% share of a company can be much more than a 60% share of another. This is really up to the people who built a company. The important part is that when you are giving a woman a percentage in a very typical male industry, or a male company, you are also giving her value, and showing that you consider her an important part of the company.

As a creator of a business, you are rewarding a woman by giving her a percentage, and by committing her to be responsible to share in the wins and also the losses and the times when things are not that easy. In this way you are showing future generations that ownership can be shared. The amount, or percentage is not really important, what’s important is that you are legally part of it and you are making decisions.

Megan: Yes agreed.

Ingrid: That is my opinion.

Jessica: Yes and what is nice about OWNED is that it’s great to have other women whom you can talk too, because women in general like to talk about things – it’s just how we are, we want to share. It’s difficult to have your own company, it’s tough, so it’s nice that you can share with each other your struggles and also successes, and also in the future, when other women who dare to make the step, we can be there for them and support them and explain how to make it.

Megan: And Emma, how do you think that we can encourage more women to start companies?

Emma: I think doing exactly what we’re doing here now; I mean the initiative that OWNED is, is a really good first step and I think it’s mentoring, it’s telling our story and showing women out there it can be done. It’s not to say that there’re not going to be obstacles on the way but it makes you stronger to work through those obstacles and I think for us it’s also paving the way for the new generation. I think how we’re bringing up our children and how we’re imparting our knowledge and our beliefs within the younger generation is going to help.

I think that some of this imbalance is how we got to be strong, you have to encourage people to be strong, to be ambitious, to be adventurous and not be afraid. It’s out there, it can be done and it’s really rewarding. My journey has been incredibly rewarding and I have two daughters and they see how positive I am about my workforce and they are proud of the fact that their mom’s got a company. And they are proud because their mom’s got a company, not because their mom’s a woman who has a company, and I think that’s who we are bringing up. So I think that that’s how we can encourage who’s coming up in our footsteps.

Megan: Right, I also think it’s important to talk about how men can be a part of this and how much we need you guys. I notice that men have been an important part of how we were able to succeed, especially in some industries where a big proportion of companies are male-dominated. The fact that we had male mentors, we had male champions who really took an interest in us at a young age, let us take chances and we should be thankful to have that. And what worries me a little bit is that some of the conversations I’ve had in the past year with men is that you guys are sometimes afraid now. And you won’t want to mentor the new art director or the production coordinator or somebody who you think is smart and has talent, because she’s a woman, and you’re afraid of or what you might be accused of.

I think that we all know the difference between harassment and encouragement and I think it would be great if we could kind of go back to that and really making sure that we’re looking at the younger women in our office and finding out ways that we can encourage them and further their careers. You don’t have to be a mentor, that sometimes is too formal, but you can be a champion or an ally and that’s another way that you guys can help us, and thank you for considering and continuing to support us.

Megan: So how can women owners help to change things Jessica?

Jessica: I think I mentioned it already a bit but I just think it’s important that we are part of society and that it becomes a normal thing, that it’s not strange that you are woman owner.

Megan: Right

Jessica: I’ve never had that feeling by the way but in Holland it’s quite normal I think, well maybe not in our industry but there are many female owners in our country, of course.”

Megan: Right, Ingrid?

Ingrid: Well, thinking about what we have discussed together we realized that also the region where you come from makes a big difference in the approach you can have to these topics. I come from Latin America, we are with our industry association, who are here by the way, “Chile” and I am the only woman owner; that’s crazy isn’t it? It shows that there’s still a lot of space to be made for women and I think we found that in India there were so few women owned companies it’s crazy! There is a lot of work to be done to encourage people and motivate women to open companies, motivate society to move forward into real equality, which doesn’t mean that a man and a woman are equal because they will never be. We are different to men and we love to be different but we are equally capable. We should have equal opportunities and we should have equal rights, and yes that’s what you’re doing when you open a company as a woman, you are creating a new space for a new dialogue, and I think it’s really worth it.

Megan: Emma?

Emma: Well yes, I concur with what Jessica and Ingrid have said. It is by creating a coalition that we actually create an environment to let women grow. In company in Sydney we have 25% women 75% men, in Shanghai it’s 30% women and 70% men. So what I do is encourage the men in my company to embrace raising their families, especially if their wives or partners have careers of their own. I think you touched on it too before, Jessica – when their wives want to return to the workforce it’s allowing not just the flexibility for women in your company but also for the men in your company, I think that’s really important too.

Megan: Thank you everyone! We also wanted to show you our initial group of companies.
We have 50 companies that have joined us so far and we would love to hear from you if you are interested in joining us and we would love to hear your questions and your concerns. If you want to contact us, there we are.


Ciclope: And while we’re looking at this if there are any questions from the audience we’re having the Q&A.


Question: Hi, great panel. I just wanted to ask if you have any thoughts on how we as an industry can help seed the future of female talent across post-production and as directors. Are there any tangible ways to get people, women especially, interested in joining our industry?

Jessica: Yes, because there’s not always a lot on offer, it’s true that sometimes, the kind of work within our industry makes it not always appealing for female creatives and maybe they choose a different industry to go for. But, I think as soon as more women participate, this will generate more female work out there.

Megan: I think it’s also done by finding women to champion. I could kill you all with statistics for hours on this. But if you look at them, women, young women are promoted across all industries at a much lower rate than men. I think that decisions are made about what women want versus what men want. Maybe it’s finding a young woman at your office, an intern etc and making sure that she gets to stand behind the camera and talk to the director or talk to the DP or sit with the executive producer or sit with your flame artists. Really making there is an interest. And, I think that goes for men and women. But, sometimes, from my personal experience in the industry, those kinds of things got shown to the male PAs and the female PAs got put in the wardrobe room or in the production office. I think if we just stop and go, hey, let me think about this differently, it will change.

Ingrid: Well I can just support what you said. We do a lot of outdoor adventure things in our service industry and at the beginning even I was choosing the man to drive the car, and I was afraid that the helicopter might be piloted by a woman; which is a little bit ironic. But then I started to realize that some women were really good on the pickup truck and as Jessica said, if you don’t offer the opportunity to try different things, people cannot show whether or not they’re good at different things. Sometimes in our subconscious a woman does one kind of thing and a man the other and the worst part of that is that we are not just damaging the women, we are doing a lot of damage to the man, too. Because men also want to have their space for creativity and would also like to share being a father or being with you, doing things together and not always feel like they have to be the male figure of the man which we created. I think we all want to get rid of that, and leave that in the past and start this new society where we are equal – equal and happy somehow.

Question/Statement: I think this is why it’s really important that we are visible. I think at the moment we’re invisible and I think by being visible, by establishing this, we’re not threatening men, we’re not saying men are not this, or that we are any different, we just need to be visible so that the younger people coming through can be inspired by us. [We want younger generations] to see that women can own businesses and can be successful in business, can handle business fairly and ethically and I think that this OWNED by women initiative will make us more visible. I think it’s also critically important because one of the things that we all need to do is when we employ people is that we have to have gender blindness. So, we need to treat the boys who work for us and the girls who work for us, the men and the women in exactly the same way and by demonstrating that hopefully we will bring through a new generation into the film industry which doesn’t choose because you’re a man or a woman. I mean obviously we know that our business is very social we are all being very social here and men sometimes like to drink with men and anybody who’s been to AdFest knows that that can be an interesting environment as a woman… But we’re not talking about socializing, we’re talking about recognizing the fact that women have absolutely equal talents, absolutely equal intellect, absolutely equal organizational skills, and we need to be visible and show that to people. So what I’m hoping is that OWNED will bring us this visibility to inspire the women coming through, the younger women who think, “oh yeah I can do that!” So thank you very much for doing it, really appreciate it, thank you.

Megan: Thanks everyone.

Ingrid: It’s been a pleasure.


[This has been lightly edited for clarity]

An initiative of global inclusion, supporting and promoting women owned companies in the advertising and production industries.


Designed by Tantor Films – Chile