In October Adriana Taborda joined DDB Bogota as VP, brand and business leader. She'd previously been at Lowe Group for 18 years. Her hiring made her the fourth female member of DDB Colombia's management team, along with Paola Vasquez, managing director of DDB Medellin, Ines Posada, managing director of ROJA – the dedicated agency to Avianca Holdings Global, and Carolina Ramirez, manager of PIVOT – the dedicated agency to Claro. More broadly. The agency is making great strides when it comes to female leadership, 13 of 19 leadership roles are occupied by women. It reflects changes happening more broadly in the country – in June Colombia elected its first female vice president, Martha Lucía Ramirez and half of the cabinet minsters in government are women too.
LBB's Addison Capper spoke with Adriana to find out more about what tempted Adriana away from Lowe and to find out her thoughts about Colombia’s gender equality conversation.
LBB> Tell us about the gender situation in Colombia – is it quite a patriarchal society?
Adriana> Colombia is a very diversified country, and each region is notably different. Although there are some similarities, it would be wrong to state that Colombian society is patriarchal. In some regions such as the Caribbean or Antioquia, the influence of women raising their children, passing down their values, vision of life, and way of interacting with others, is of high relevance. And it has been so for quite some time now; some serious sociological studies even talk about a matriarchy in such regions.
Others, such as Santander, have historically been considered to have a patriarchal society. And further, the fact that this society is, in general terms, male chauvinist. This has declined lately, but it is still a fact in our culture.
Differentiating amongst these two terms of equality is fundamental - just as important to differentiate between definitions, regions, visions of equality, etc.
Nowadays, there is a rise in single-parent-families, and of these, 80% are led by women. What are we doing as a society to give these women better tools to raise their children? That is the main question that should be solved as a country.
LBB> Is there a lot of conversation in Colombia around gender equality? Can you give any examples?
Adriana> I would say so. This is a subject that becomes more relevant on a daily basis. It is important for multinational companies that are present in the country because it is important within their headquarters. It is important for big national companies because most have as part of their values and tradition respect for their employees and society. It is important for the media, which has made it important for public opinion. Furthermore, it has been used as an electoral platform with positive results in many cases. A recent example is the presidential campaign of Martha Lucía Ramirez, who has become the first woman vice-president in the history of the country. Moreover, 50% of the government’s seats are filled with women. In serious forums there are conversations that aid with building a society where we all have the same opportunities.
But, in social networks, although we see valuable conversations around this topic, there are also many others, that, without background or real data to support them, only offend one-another and postpone the ideas.
LBB> Is the #Me Too movement a big topic of conversation?
Adriana> I think that it is most relevant amongst the upper classes than the majority of Colombian society. With certain frequency, some media quote this movement from different angles. Not adopting it but covering what is happening. And, for some key opinion leaders, talking about what is relevant from this movement for each case. However, I think that we are not going to move forward unless a more relevant discussion is held. And by this discussion I do not suggest decreasing the goals or enthusiasm that we currently have but becoming a society that offers the same opportunities for all. I mean discussing while hearing one-another. And, not seeing anyone that doesn’t talk the same language as a threat. This only generates polarisation but, worst of all, generates a battle. Also, another movement has become relevant: #NiUnaMenos. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ni_una_menos
There has always been a culture of silence around abuse, shame and humiliation for women. They have been blamed for being hurt. The fact that they are being heard and supported by other women has lead them to have the courage to report abuse that has been committed against them. All these are thanks to these movements.
LBB> What was it about DDB that tempted you away from Lowe?
Adriana> They are different companies in many aspects. From my side, I’m always looking forward to learning and growing from new opportunities. Further, this is a very crucial moment for DDB Colombia and being part of something like that is very exciting. It is a new challenge in my life, more than just on the professional aspect. In DDB Colombia, out of the 19 leadership positions, 13 are women. It is a company that doesn’t preach, it leads by example.
LBB> In terms of the broader conversation around diversity, what’s the context in Colombia?
Adriana>The country wants to be fairer. At least that’s how I see it. The difficulty is that a big part of Colombia is scared of social changes. The war we have been part of since we can remember is one reason that a big part of the population associates social changes with chaos. Or, they view those changes with uncertainty as they are proposed by people who think differently to them politically. The new government has shown good will to reconcile in order to build up respecting each other’s differences. If this leads us to put our guard down and to analyse with less mistrustfulness, we might advance more quickly to a society that is more just.
LBB> How can the advertising industry as a whole work to help change society?
Adriana> By doing our everyday work in a responsible manner. Before tackling the tasks that others are responsible for, we can ask ourselves if the content that we are creating for our clients on an everyday basis is highlighting archetypes that could be harmful to society or using the wrong motivations to sell our products – for example, [leveraging motivations like] the fear of social rejection.
Although we can create an action or campaign to help mitigate this, I think that the most valuable input that our industry is in the day-to-day work.