Pivoting from the world of TV and cinema where she first made a name for herself, Amanda de Cadenet has spent the last three years building Girlgaze. Born out of a glaring gender imbalance when it comes to hires in the creative industries, Girlgaze has become a space for female and non-binary photographers and directors to get recognised and, crucially, get jobs. The talent and numbers were always there, Girlgaze just set out to highlight them.
Since its inception, Girlgaze has acted as a channel for these creatives to gain direct involvement in big-name projects, resulting in successful collaborations with brands like Nike, Adobe, Levi’s and Google. A team of Girlgaze talent even curated an issue of Teen Vogue, the magazine’s first created entirely by women.
The goalposts have now moved though, and it’s de Cadenet who moved them. Launching at Cannes Lions 2019, The Girlgaze Network connects leading brands with a vast community of underrepresented creatives: 200,000 of them, in fact. Trialling the platform led to over 550 paid jobs worth upwards of a million dollars in freelancer fees, and Dove got involved earlier this year with its #ShowUs campaign by hiring over 400 creatives worldwide, giving a firm green light that the initiative has legs.
The new platform will bring together creative roles across various disciplines, chief among them advertising, design, photography, animation, media, production, and tech. “We’re known for content production and product collabs, mission driven initiatives and placements, but the Girlgaze Network is taking this a step further,” de Cadenet tells CR. “We started with female-identifying and non-binary photographers and directors. Where we are heading includes hundreds of creative jobs. The world needs to see what creative work looks like from the girl gaze.”
The Girlgaze Network allows for optional “non-biased browsing” where brands can view profiles without any initial identifying details. Instead, the focus can be placed on the fundamentals – skills, qualifications and portfolios of work. It’s a refreshing approach in an age of relentless personal brand-building, but the strategy isn’t just about taking the strain off the individuals: it’s about changing brands’ hiring approach.
“The non-bias option is exactly that, it’s an option,” de Cadenet clarifies. “It is not mandatory but is available for people who want to address unconscious bias in their own hiring. If they choose this option then they will be hiring based on skill and work, which is how we think it should be anyway.”
Of course, this approach isn’t totally free from bias: even when using “non-biased browsing,” employers will naturally be aware that all of the profiles belong to women and non-binary creatives. So is this in response to bias within the female and non-binary communities, such as race or disability? Yes, de Cadenet believes, but also “we want employers to focus on the work. That’s why we tell creators, ‘Let your work do the talking.'”
With so much focus being placed on attributes like qualifications, this could pave the way for other biases, like candidates’ education or background. However, The Girlgaze Network is offering direct support to those who tend to miss out on jobs because of their location, education level and other prejudices. Creatives can also sign up to mentoring sessions run by de Cadenet herself as well as fellow members of the Girlgaze board, helmed by actress and entrepreneur Amber Valletta, photojournalist and author Lynsey Addario, and photographer Inez Van Lamsweerde.
The initiative seeks to make light work of hiring underrepresented creatives. However, does this give brands and companies too easy a route into inclusivity? By removing identifying details, it means brands could end up evading the cold truth of their own unconscious biases altogether and avoid making a concerted effort to engage with broader communities. On the other hand, any step is a step in the right direction. “We’re not encouraging anonymity because the creator doesn’t matter, but reports have shown that hiring biases have not changed in over two decades,” de Cadenet points out.
For Girlgaze, it’s not about fixing brands; the focus is on the creatives and getting them through the door. “Over 70% of companies want to be inclusive. They just don’t know how… That’s where the pipeline defense comes in, and we’re saying, no more. You say you have a pipeline problem, well, here is the solution,” she says, alluding to the reason many brands give for not hiring a more diverse workforce. “We facilitate the opportunities to the communities. This also helps brands actually reach the goal of walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”