Multi-hyphenate photographer-television host-writer-activist-entrepreneur Amanda de Cadenet founded the digital media company Girlgaze in 2016 (a follow-up to a popular #girlgaze Instagram hashtag she created). The business is dedicated to expanding opportunities for female-identifying photographers, writers, producers and directors, who share “a perspective previously marginalized and underrepresented in mainstream media: how girls see the world,” according to the site. Girlgaze has also zeroed in on diversification in hiring with a mission “to help close the gender gap one job at a time,” and today marks the official launch of The Girlgaze Network, an online jobs platform and agency that connects brands with a subscription network of over 200,000 creative women and non-binary people in 62 countries.
To date, Girlgaze has partnered with companies such as Levi’s, Gucci, Google, Nike, Tesla, Warby Parker, Shinola, Gap and Time’s Up to create original branded content, exhibitions, short films, and job listings. Portfolios are presented with “non-biased browsing” marked with initials rather than personal information to minimize conscious and unconscious biases. Dove piloted the Girlgaze program during beta testing by hiring 400 Girlgaze creatives for their March 2019 #ShowUs global campaign that challenged beauty stereotypes and 12 Girlgaze women in 12 cities across the U.S. created the Nike Air Force One campaign last December focused on unsung heroes.
“Not only are we trying to kind of close the gender gap one job at a time, but we’re also very committed to telling the stories from the perspective of people who have been marginalized and whose stories have not been valued,” de Cadenet told The Hollywood Reporter. In advance of today’s official unveiling of the network during a panel at the 2019 Cannes Lions festival (where Shonda Rhimes called it “a badass project”), de Cadenet talked exclusively to THR about the new online jobs marketplace, her views on abortion ban legislation and a forthcoming series of Spotify podcasts featuring the female presidential candidates, due to debut this summer.
What a beautiful moment seeing our GirlgazeXDoveXGetty billboards in Times Square !! About 3 years ago I launched @girlgaze Instagram as a way to highlight the female identifying view on life . I wanted to see more girls behind the lens as shockingly few are actually hired compared to our male counterparts . I knew that by having more diversity behind the lens , we would have more in front too.For years very few gave a crap about women or girls and the only way I could make a living was to create my own opportunities . I figured if I could do that for myself , I could do that for others . This campaign provided over 350 jobs in 39 counties and generated over 5000+ images available for anyone who wants to licence them . For all of you who tirelessly advocate for inclusion and visibly for the many people who go unseen and unheard this is a big win for all of us . It is a new day when images like this are front and center. Huge thanks to my small but mighty @girlgaze team who produced every shoot and edited every image. Today, on equal pay day I can say that we are doing what we can to close the gender gap one job at a time . #EqualPay #EqualRepresentation #GenerationPaid #Girlgaze @dove @gettyimages
A post shared by Amanda de Cadenet (@amandadecadenet) on
You’ve been beta testing the job platform for a while. Tell us how it has grown.
I wouldn’t even call it a beta; it was an alpha! The first project we did was a huge global collaboration between Girlgaze and Dove and Getty with over 5,000 images of women and girls and non-binary people in 62 countries around the world. Girlgaze created every single image and piece of content from the billboards to the films to the social media campaign. We had to find the models and the directors and photographers. In order to be able to do that year-long project, I realized that we needed technology, or there’s no way we could have done it. We’re a small team [of 12 people now]. So I built a very basic technology platform and we tested it with the biggest job we’ve ever done. And once we started doing that, I was like, ‘Okay, this is the way forward.’ Because I’m finding all these companies that have committed to the 50/50 by 2020 and want to do better and have their hiring be more inclusive and diverse; they just really don’t know how to go about it. Technology is the solution. We don’t need to have a gigantic team all around the world to help all these companies hire our community because we have technology.
Do you think there is progress in terms of female representation in Hollywood?
No! I wish I could say that we’ve made great progress, but we haven’t. We’ve made great progress with the media coverage we’ve gotten and with uncovering a systemic patriarchy, which is firmly in place to keep the systems the way they are. We’ve done a great job with that. But If you actually look at the numbers of how many women are hired to direct TV pilots, last pilot season it was like two percent more than it was three years ago before we had this awareness. If you look at the amount of female directors who have been hired by major studios for big budget films, it has barely moved.
As far as other types of media, no one’s done an in-depth study on photography and how many female-identifying individuals have taken the images for billboards and marketing campaigns and magazine covers. But the last research in 2016 said that only three percent of the content was taken by women. How can we tell our story truthfully and honestly and depict ourselves when we aren’t given the opportunity to shape that narrative? Which is really where the idea of Girlgaze came from, from my own experience as someone who has made my own television shows for years and who has also been a photographer. I mean, the glass ceiling is so low in both of those jobs that you can’t even get up off your knees!
Can you speak to the importance of unbiased browsing on your platform?
There are a lot of reasons why female-identifying creatives are not hired: gender, race, socioeconomic profile, education, location. Those are all barriers to entry for a lot of job opportunities. We also know that there is unconscious bias that goes into hiring or not hiring, and I think we are going to be able to put a dent in that with the technology. Ultimately, you should be hired based on your skill and ability in an arena. That should be the number one criteria, but it’s often the last thing people look at.
It’s interesting because the more information you give people, the more points there are for someone to not like [a candidate] or to get distracted by something they said. It feeds into everyone’s preferences and filters and becomes too personal. So I realized less is more. With this technology, we have built a wizard that basically plugs [job listing] information into the technology and matches creatives who fit that criteria as close to 100 percent as possible. You do not see a name or a photo on an avatar. You just see their initials and their work. As you whittle it down to the person you want to hire, you don’t get to see that information about their name or what they look like until almost the last step.
This week someone asked me “If you could make any show , what would it be ?” . I took a moment to really think about this … and the truth is that I already made it . The Conversation was a from the heart show which had the clear objective of connecting women through our shared experiences and journeys . 8 years later , this is still the show I would make . I learn something every time I watch these women share their powerful stories . @moore2d what a magical show we made ! @TheConversation #FBF @janefonda @gwynethpaltrow @SarahSilverman @zoesaldana @KellyPreston @joybeezy @ladygaga @mileycyrus @aliciakeys @ritawilson
A post shared by Amanda de Cadenet (@amandadecadenet) on
I hear that you will be introducing a summer podcast series on Spotify?
We are in a really critical time right now, moving into 2020, where we can make some change for the things that are not working in this country, in our communities. And it’s important to me to have an opportunity to talk to the people who are going to be hopefully making decisions in this country and to have conversations about subjects that are difficult to talk about and navigate in a constructive way. So that other people can access and be a part of discussions that I think need to be happening. I’m excited to be able to do a podcast format because it really lends itself to my interview style. Look, my first job was interviewing people at age 15. I love it. It’s second nature to me.
We’ve got some amazing female candidates right now and I’m looking forward to talking to them all. I think I did the first one-on-one sit down with Hillary Clinton when she was running for president, and I worked with Kirsten Gillibrand since period one of the conversation, which was eight years ago. I’ve also worked closely with Kamala Harris, after Kirsten asked me to co-host an event for her in 2015 and then I interviewed her. It makes me so happy to see more and more people opening up their homes and their wallets to support these candidates because it is not a niche interest. These are the people who will be making decisions for so many of us. … If you don’t have an opinion today and you’re not doing something to help move consciousness and your community in a direction that you think is a good one to go in, then I don’t know what to say to you. By your complacency, don’t be surprised if it turns out not the way you want it.
Taking action always helps me feel less powerless about things like the monumental effort in effect to ban abortion in multiple states. There are over 500 #StopTheBans events today across all 50 states and Puerto Rico! Find one near you: stopabortionbans.org @prochoiceamerica
A post shared by Amanda de Cadenet (@amandadecadenet) on
You have spoken out about abortion rights. Do you want to weigh in on the state abortion bans?
I felt that it was important to speak publicly about my own choice to have an abortion because not many people from my community were speaking up. And by the way, no one has to. It’s not an obligation. It’s each person’s individual choice. No one owes anyone their sexual assault story either. If you want to, fine. If you don’t, you don’t have to. I don’t have a judgment on it. Fortunately, sexual assault is becoming less and less stigmatized, but you know, three years ago it was extremely stigmatized. Abortion is one of the last big issues where women are immediately shamed and stigmatized.
I thought it was important to speak up about having chosen an abortion, within my circumstances, because I did not choose to have an abortion for health issues. It wasn’t because I was in some shit relationship. It was in a very loving relationship, and we weren’t ready to commit to having a child. And that is the case for most people who have abortions. The majority of people are just like, ‘I’m not ready for this.’ You don’t need to have a specific reason as to why you chose to have an abortion. That’s your choice.
I care deeply that women could potentially be put in circumstances where they do not have this choice. Unfortunately, as a privileged white woman, it’s not going to affect me. I could leave a state and go get an abortion somewhere else if I wanted to. But who it does affect is predominantly women of color and low-income families. So I feel like it’s my responsibility to help to prevent this ban from happening. I’ve been talking to Pro-Choice America NARAL, it’s an amazing organization. There are some phenomenal groups who are doing great work to help keep us from going backwards in time.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.