How I swapped school runs for Cannes runs

‘Being a mum actually preps you perfectly for the Cannes experience’

This year, Cannes shone a spotlight on women, with themes like Women in Sport, Women in AI and Women in Work all happily taking centre stage.

It was inspiring to see such focus on women’s achievements and contributions at a global event like this. So much so that it got me thinking about my own journey.

Mission impossible

As a working mum in a senior leadership position, attending Cannes Lions has always felt like an impossible dream. The logistics of leaving home, sorting out childcare, and making sure everything runs smoothly in my absence can be incredibly tricky. Sure, Cannes has been upping its game to make the event more inclusive and accessible. They’ve even introduced a crèche for those brave enough to bring their kids along. If that had been around a few years ago when my kids were younger, I might have considered using it. But who am I kidding?

Given the scorching heat, endless walking and marathon long days, it would have been HELL for both me and them. Ice cream runs and free merch aside, Cannes with kids? No, thank you!

The real issue

Here’s the thing, though: I can’t help but wonder if the real issue is less about needing more support at the event to bring our kids and more about why we struggle to leave them at home in the first place. The logistical nightmare of planning everything, drafting in support (thanks, Mum!), and prepping for the week to make sure nothing is left unwashed, unpacked or forgotten is overwhelming, all part and parcel of the ‘hidden load’.

When my lovely husband jets off for a week of work abroad, he doesn’t have to think or do any of this.

This highlights a broader issue in our industry and society. Globally, women hold only 29% of leadership roles in advertising agencies, and a staggering 55% of women who took parental leave in the last five years believe it damaged their careers.

Our industry still needs to do more to support working mums. Flexible hours, remote work options and comprehensive parental leave policies are great, but they’re just the beginning. Companies need to foster cultures where taking time for family doesn’t equate to career suicide. It’s time to normalise shared parenting and household responsibilities, making sure they’re not solely the burden of women. When companies take these steps and help to get their working mums to events like Cannes, they will benefit from a multitude of fresh insights, ideas and connections.

Mum’s the word

Being a mum actually preps you perfectly for the Cannes experience.

Think about it: bringing your A-game with no sleep, early starts, multitasking like a pro to get the most out of each day, making sure everyone stays hydrated, fed and gets home safe, being super organised, having a Mary Poppins-esque bag of tricks for all occasions, using your playground prowess to get on the guest list, work a queue or make new friends.

Sound familiar?

Women supporting women

Networks of support — like the Women in Cannes WhatsApp group I joined — can also make a huge difference. This community of around 1,000 impressive women was an invaluable resource, especially for a newbie like me. Their tips, tricks and camaraderie made my experience smoother and more enjoyable. A testament to the power of women supporting women — a community-driven initiative that felt authentic and collaborative because it was started by women, rather than the festival itself.

And let’s not forget that networking at Cannes through serendipitous connections can lead to incredible opportunities. For many of us who juggle careers and motherhood, these moments are few and far between. And when more women, especially working mums, are visible in spaces like Cannes, it sends a powerful message about the importance of representation and the richness of experiences we bring. We need more platforms that facilitate these crucial interactions.

So, while the road to Cannes had a few bumps, logistical hurdles and sleepless nights, it was absolutely worth it. For all the working mums out there, here’s to making it work and many more Cannes experiences to come.

Featured image: Caleb Oquendo / Pexels

Amelia Shepherd, Director of Growth at Wonder

Amelia Shepherd is Director of Growth at Wonder, the business campaigns and experience agency whose clients include Google, Canva and Visa. She is passionate about turning client marketing stories into compelling brand experiences – experiences that change perceptions, create buzz and deliver results. Formerly MD at TRO, Amelia draws on her 15+ industry knowledge to be an active Elevate ambassador and mentor.

All articles