Changing the status quo for women working in the production side of the advertising industry is at the heart of new company launched by the DUKE Group this week.
Duchess is a 100% black female-owned, Level 1 B-BBEE-compliant, full-service production facilitator. In the words of DUKE CEO, Wayne Naidoo, it is “a powerful, female-owned and managed business that exists to meet the production, media, social, economic and cultural landscape”.
Headed by 25-year production stalwart, Nino Naidoo, Duchess addresses what she calls “a lack of female talent in our industry”.
“For as long as I’ve been working, I have always had discussions around how to create opportunities for women in the industry in a more structured manner,” Naidoo told The Media Online. “Duchess is, ultimately, the platform to do so. Duchess is about opening a door and creating a space where skilled women of colour in our industry can shine and do what they do best, thus making it possible for transformative and lasting change.”
The idea is to create a network of highly skilled and experienced, majority black female companies and individuals, and then connect industry needs and ideas with a network of production specialists, giving first option to female experts.
It’s certainly not a small undertaking, Naidoo confirms, but change has to start somewhere. “At present, the management team consists of female executives that work within the DUKE Group, all of whom have incredible insight and experience in the industry. We also plan to grow this space by ensuring that we seek out greater black female representation in the company,” she adds.
DUKE Group’s Suhana Gordhan, Aileen Sauerman, Tracy Jones and Meagan Fester are on hand while the business will also be guided by a non-executive and independent ‘brains trust’ of “powerhouse” women, “passionate about empowering other women and will provide a mentorship and advisory role to the Duchess members”.
“We are aiming for a diverse body of experienced female leadership – not necessarily just from the ad space,” Naidoo explains. “These female leaders will help shape policy and further develop this new ecosystem that we’re creating. Those with whom we’ve had initial discussions are incredibly excited about the opportunity.”
The global ad industry has on occasion been accused of being sexist. Naidoo says she hasn’t personally experienced sexism, but that “… what I have seen is that women lack the same confidence as men. Duchess aims to represent women’s voices, and we believe that will create a true economic upside”.
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Duchess, be being a women-owned and run operation, can also address gender issues within advertisements themselves.
“Having women throughout the business, choosing to work with women, not only throws a spotlight on highly skilled and talented women in our industry, but it will automatically give us a female-oriented lens with which to view the work. I think that’s already a great start,” Naidoo says.
Naidoo says Duchess isn’t here to “take away from other black female-owned businesses or creatives, but rather to channel business in their direction, to prioritise female creatives, as well as to grow and nurture a pool of young and emerging talent”.
This it would do through building a database of individuals and businesses across the current pillars of electronic and print production, packaging and art buying. “This will naturally expand as the business grows,” she says.
Which leads to this question then: how will Duchess itself make a profit (which will be channeled into a trust to help develop talent)?
“Duchess will charge for management of the process. This could be in the form of a set fee or a commission structure.”
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