This year sees the first ever Make Nice “un-conference” take place in Australia, a three day women-only event. The fact it exists reveals a lot about gender issues in the creative industries, so we spoke to its co-directors Ngaio Parr and Alex Winters about why such a conference needs to exist.
The inaugural Make Nice will be limited to a group of 150 of Australia’s brightest female creatives.
Why do we need a female-identifying only creative conference? We’re so glad you asked.
Firstly, because it’s what we wanted. We’ve both had to work purposefully and diligently to create a supportive female network of colleagues in our respective creative fields. We wanted to make this an easier process for others, and curate a way for creative women to be part of a loyal, generous and supportive network – both locally (here in Australia), and internationally (online). We firmly believe that “a rising tide lifts all boats”, and wanted to promote that mentality in an industry that can, sometimes, feel the opposite.
It isn’t that we’re about excluding males from engaging with these issues, rather that, in this instance, we’re showcasing and creating a space for women to direct the conversation, and doing this means not including males. There’s a small but sharp difference. In terms of visibility, our research found that women felt the creative industries were overwhelmingly male dominated, and that events like this generally felt stifling and intimidating, not to mention removed from their own experiences. To make things worse, women are often encouraged see other females as competitors, not colleagues, which is a hugely damaging mentality. We want to create a space for women in the industry to address their concerns and reimagine their role within the wider ecology. In this way, we feel that the event and online platform will have a broad impact.
Short term, we’d like to see women in the creative fields benefit from a network that rivals any boys’ club they’ve ever felt rejected from. We want to assemble a group of women to champion each other’s work and support and assist each other with all those impossible questions.
In the long term, we’d like Make Nice to provide a place for creative women to see themselves reflected. We want to create confidence in women to go for leadership roles or pitch to big clients. We’re building a platform for women to highlight issues and find relevant and practical tools for how to navigate them. That way, it’s only really a matter of time before we have a team of female creatives running the show.
We feel that women are being undervalued and underserved by the industry, so Make Nice makes sense – and we aren’t alone in this. Women have contacted us from all over the world with messages of support, asking for us to bring Make Nice to America and Europe, thanking us for being part of the wider conversation with our online platform, and for, well…just existing. And we haven’t even delivered the un-conference yet! We’re over the moon, really.
So the short answer is, we need Make Nice because it makes sense. Women want to be part of the conversation and more visible in the industry, and we want to support them to make that happen. We’re finding that if you build it, they will come.