The Presidents’ Club scandal spells the beginning of the end of sleazy behaviour at MIPIM, writes Leanne Tritton
My head is spinning with excitement. I started full-time employment in 1985 and over the past 33 years I have had exposure to many industry sectors, including TV and film, sport, architecture, design and property. Across the board, sexism (in all its glorious forms) had just become part of daily life.
Promises for change were made in multiple guises. The first for me was in 1986 when the Australian government launched the Affirmative Action Act, which promised that women would be given ‘equality’. Companies that failed to comply would be named and shamed in Parliament and everything would be sorted.
I worked as hard as I possibly could to show I was as smart as the next bloke
As a wide-eyed youngster, I believed them. So for 30 years, I went to all the women’s events, celebrated women’s achievements, dodged the unwanted advances with grace and worked as hard as I possibly could to show I was as smart as the next bloke. But little changed. Until Harvey.
Like most women I know, I have been glued to the Weinstein revelations and the subsequent global shock waves that have gone through every business sector like wildfire. For me, ‘Weinstein’ is now generic shorthand for multiple forms of sexual abuse, harassment or inequality that women have had to put up with. Perversely, his behaviour has had the greatest and fastest impact on changing behaviour that I have witnessed in my entire career.
Predictably, the circus has come to town and landed very firmly at the door of the property industry via the Presidents’ Club revelations. Wednesday morning was the very first time I had ever heard of this organisation and by Wednesday night it was disbanded. Probably the fastest ever example of the rise and fall of a brand I have ever witnessed.
One of the clear messages from the last few days has been from men who have admitted to turning a blind eye in the past. I actually have huge sympathy with them, as men and women are equally subjected to the secret, unwritten codes of business. Be a grass and you will be out on your ear.
MIPIM is a very real opportunity to effect lasting change
However, seven weeks ahead of the world’s largest property conference, MIPIM, we are presented with a very real opportunity to effect lasting change.
ING is the communication partner for MIPIM and we advise many clients, including architects who are attending. However, I was a fan long before we ever landed the account. I attended my first conference in Cannes in 1995 and have always believed that attendance at the four-day event is the most cost-effective and enjoyable way to meet people in the industry. Some of my strongest friendships and business relationships have been forged there – so I am not going to give that up because of a few dinosaurs. In fact, I think that via the revelations in the Financial Times, many of the dinosaurs have already been given notice that their party is over. Hopefully they have gone off somewhere to ‘fight their demons’.
That leaves the rest of us to push through while the levee has broken: making sure there is female representation on all speaking panels, raising the level of female representation at every property event, generating safe and fun networking opportunities where you can advance your professional life (just imagine that!), empowering men and women to speak up when they recognise something is wrong.
Don’t worry, there will still be young women at MIPIM. Celebrated writer and activist Adora Svitak (aged 20) will be giving the keynote address. My younger self had to wait much longer than I expected to see change, but for the first time in a long time I believe our time has come. I am stocking up on comfy shoes and will happily help to dig the graves of the soon-to-be-extinct. See you in Cannes.
Leanne Tritton is managing director of ING Media