Genie leads campaign for better budget transparency to close gender pay gap | #BehindTheIdea

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Genie - the intelligent matchmaking service for creative industries - launched a campaign last year to encourage employers to be more transparent with their budgets.

Led by Genie’s female founders Nicky Badneoch and Bonnie Harold and endorsed by female members of its talent community including Alex Holder (Author of ‘Open Up: Why Talking About Money Will Change Your Life’ and former Executive Creative Director of Anomaly UK), the social media campaign asks employers to be more upfront about their budgets when sourcing freelance or external talent.

The campaign coincides with The Fawcett Society’s Equal Pay Day (20th November - the day in the year where women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men because of the gender pay gap) and follows Genie successfully closing its gender pay gap to zero for middleweight and senior talent.

Genie Co-founder Nicky Badenoch said: “I can’t believe that in 2022 we are still talking about pay gaps. Over many years I have seen women consistently underprice themselves and enough is enough. I believe with greater transparency we can eliminate these pay gaps altogether."

Genie community member Alex Holder added: “Transparency works! We’re seeing the evidence time and time again that transparency is one of the quickest ways to close pay-gaps. So why aren’t we all doing it? Every job ad, every brief, every project should display a clear budget/salary. I’m so happy to support Genie’s budget transparency feature - it’s proof that giving talent full information at the outset doesn't just help close the gap, it can eradicate it entirely.

To learn more, we caught up with the Genie team to go behind the idea.


What was the brief?

Genie’s ‘Tell Us Your Budgets’ campaign wasn’t born from a brief per se. Rather, it was the result of a strong appetite to improve the experience and remuneration for the thousands of women who play such an important role in the creative industries.

It started when the team at Genie - the intelligent talent matching platform for the creative industries - started to see a trend emerging. Essentially, when budgets weren’t shared at the commissioning stage on the platform, men were typically charging their services at higher rates than women did, even when their experience and expertise were on a par.

This led to Genie developing and launching a new feature which gave employers the option to share their budgets at the briefing and commissioning stage. In the period following the budget transparency feature launch, the gender pay gap on Genie’s platform went from 2.6% to zero (for middleweight and above levels).

With compelling evidence pointing to the effectiveness of budget transparency in addressing the pay gap, the Genie team - and specifically the female members of it - knew they needed to spread the word and get more brands, agencies and employers to follow in the steps of its community of users.

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

Knowing that they were sitting on a viable and easy to implement solution to the gender pay gap issue, the question for the Genie team was less one of ‘what’, and more one of ‘how’ and ‘when’.

In terms of timing, the Fawcett Society’s annual Equal Pay Day (the day in the year when women essentially start working for free because of the gender pay gap) was coming up, and provided a natural hook to share insights from the Genie platform.

What was the process behind ideating the concept?


The decision was made early on not to engage Genie’s pool of talent to deliver the campaign. Instead, with the team made up of 50% women, many of whom have direct or indirect experience of gender pay disparities, Genie wanted to lead on devising and delivering the campaign itself.

The team considered different ways of bringing their message to life, but ultimately landed on the simplest route - a series of photos of the Genie team holding signs which read ‘Tell Us Your Budgets’, shared across social media with accompanying info around the effectiveness of Genie’s data transparency feature.

What was the production process like?

Taking the concept from idea to news feed was fairly straightforward - the team really bought into the sentiment behind the campaign and by devising a deliberately simple creative execution it meant they could take part easily - all they needed was paper, a pen and a smartphone.

We were lucky enough to have access to the Fawcett Society’s data and learnings, which helped provide broader context to the issue of equal pay. This helped us further convey the wider narrative around the campaign and the importance of budget transparency.

What was the biggest challenge during production? How did you overcome it?

An unexpected challenge was getting the facial expressions right, tonally, on the shots of the team. The team are a happy, smiley bunch, so in the first iterations of them smiling at the camera whilst holding their ‘Tell Us Your Budgets’ signs didn’t quite work.

With the gender pay gap being such a serious issue, we settled on more neutral, serious expressions - which found easier to accomplish than others!

What kit/tools/software were used to create the project?

It was nice and straight forward, all the team needed was a smartphone, pen, paper and blank wall to pose in front of.

What’s the main message of this project and why does it matter?


From Genie’s own data, it’s clear that if talent - in particular female talent - has more information around client budgets, they’re more likely to charge rates befitting of their experience and expertise.

The main message Genie wanted to convey is that employers (brands and agencies) have more power than they think to help address the gender pay gap, which currently stands at 11.3% nationally according to the Fawcett Society.

By making a simple shift to being more transparent with budgets, it’s possible to not just close gender pay gaps, but eradicate them entirely.

And why does this matter? Well, because women are integral to the creative industries, and for too long their contribution hasn’t been recognised financially. Creativity comes from all quarters, so it’s vital that we have diversity of voices around the table. Through ensuring equal and fair pay across genders, we’ll see more balanced and equitable creativity and everyone will feel included.

How long did it take from inception to delivery?

In terms of the broader campaign around recognising the importance of budget transparency, the Genie team analysed a year’s worth of data prior to launching its transparency feature, which itself took weeks to set up.

The feature was then live and monitored for a year before Genie did anything with the findings. For the campaign itself, it was a fairly quick turnaround from idea to live, with the Genie team creating their social posts within days of alignment on the idea itself.

From feature, over a year. Once we had enough data so see the problem, Genie was quick to solve/communicate it.

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?


This campaign is less about the Genie brand and community (although the team hopes employers continue to use its new budget transparency feature) and more about instigating permanent and meaningful change for creative industries in the round. We all benefit when women are paid fairly so this campaign is about showing what’s possible to make the shift.

Credit list for the work?

Team Genie:

Nicky Badenoch

Bonnie Harold

Kate Douglas

Sophie Thrussell

Frankie Wilson

Advisor to Genie:

Copywriter - James Cooper


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