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Jane Caro: In Her Words

Jane Caro
All-round media legend Jane Caro loves a conference. After reporting on the Cannes in Cairns marketing and advertising event for us last year, she visited once again to take a pulse of women in the room and look at how they’re faring in the sector.

Join Jane Caro at the Women in Media National Conference in August.

The Cannes in Cairns 2024 marketing and advertising conference returned for a third year on 4-7 June. Given the rapturous posts on my LinkedIn feed, it was a huge success.

Women were very well represented both among the delegates and the speakers. A huge and positive change since my regular attendance at advertising conferences back in the ’80s, ’90s and noughts. Then, when the female delegate count reached a third at one conference, the male delegates got the vapours so badly, there were running jokes about the women being manhaters the whole three days. And I am not making that up.

It's heartening for this old ad creative to see such change, although I can’t help hearing the small nagging voice that reminds me that as women’s stocks in advertising and marketing have risen, so the clout and glamour of the industry has fallen.

Other forms of diversity were also under discussion at the conference, particularly ageism. I can take a small amount of credit for that green shoot as I participated in two events highlighting it.

The first was a hilarious debate between the Young Guns (defending the value of older ad guys) and the Old Guard (spruiking the value of the young). It was at that debate that Angela Smith, chief brand officer at AFFINITY, revealed a startling statistic from Jobs and Skills Australia; just seven per cent of people currently in advertising or marketing are aged over 55. I shamelessly stole that stat for my keynote the following day, “The Last Acceptable Prejudice”, which was all about ageism.

Lisa Wilkinson, who made her first post-court public appearance, talked about ageism, too, outing herself as a woman over 60 with no more f***s to give. It was comforting to hear that defiance, given what a time she’s had.

She was also open about the struggles prominent women in the media face if they want to be taken seriously as professionals. She spoke about viewers’ obsession with her clothes and appearance, rather than what she had to say. How everything any of us have ever heard about her private life, supposed affairs, salary packages et al are complete rubbish.

Her speech was very funny, but also very sobering. That a woman of her achievement cops such constant micro-aggressions – she once made headlines for eating in a restaurant and enjoying a solo cocktail while travelling alone for work – must give every ambitious woman pause.

Although if Angela’s stat is correct, and ageism affects women much earlier and more profoundly than it does men (of course), most of us will never survive long enough professionally to find out.


Jane Caro is an author, social commentator and a former advertising copywriter, and will be appearing on a panel ‘Pivots and Portfolios: The modern-day media career’ at the Women in Media National Conference on 9 August.


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