Losing Lena, a new film and campaign developed for Creatable & Code Like a Girl, asks us to help remove one image to make women feel welcome in tech.
There’s a secret hidden in almost every website and every digital image you’ve ever seen. That secret is Lena, a Playboy centrefold. She is “a face more studied than the Mona Lisa’s” and has been called Tech’s Original Sin.
But how did a centrefold from the 70s become the most used test image in the world? And what impact has it had on women studying or entering tech industries?
Introducing Losing Lena, a new film and campaign developed for Creatable & Code Like a Girl by Clemenger BBDO Sydney, FINCH, Facebook and Kamber, that asks us to help remove one image to make millions of women feel welcome in tech.
Lena’s story began in 1972, when the Swedish model posed as the Miss November centrefold.
The next year, her centrefold was chosen by some men at the University of Southern California (USC) as an ideal test image for the algorithms they were working on to turn physical photos into digital bits.
This research laid the groundwork for what would later become the jpeg, an image standard that revolutionised our digital world.
Incredibly, 46 years on, Lena is still the most infamous test image in the world. She is symbolic of how women were left out, and pushed out, of the industry.
Losing Lena is a compelling documentary that questions the very tenets of the tech industry and leaves us pondering: Why wasn’t Lena retired years ago? It explores a thread that binds together so many similar challenges and biases women in tech have experienced around the world.
“I retired from modelling a long time ago. It’s time I retired from tech, too," Lena says.
"We can make a simple change today that creates a lasting change for tomorrow. Let’s commit to losing me."
In a first for the Australian film industry and Facebook Watch, Losing Lena will be available to view at a series of events hosted by Code Like a Girl or exclusively on the Facebook Watch platform from November 26 onwards.
"The role of Lena’s image in tech’s history is representative of so many of our industry’s shortcomings. Tech is used by everyone – no matter your age, gender, ethnicity, or sexual identity," Code Like a Girl founder and CEO Ally Watson says.
"But when our tech is developed by a small subset of homogenous individuals, it’s impossible for the end product to be without bias.
"This documentary illustrates just how much effort is still needed to increase diversity in the teams building tech. It’s a call to the leaders of our industry to commit to Losing Lena. Because with the removal of one image, we’re better positioned to welcome millions of women to the table."
In addition to the film, a campaign has been launched that calls on members of the tech industry, businesses, universities and organisations to commit to Losing Lena at www.losinglena.com, as well as find substitute images that can be used for image processing testing.
“The future is being written right now in dark rooms by a group made up of predominantly men," Clemenger BBDO Sydney chief creative officer Ben Coulson says.
"If we want a better, more diverse world, many more talented women are needed in technology. We hope the story of Lena acts as a wakeup call and a catalyst for positive change.”
People can also commit their support via Code Like a Girl’s Facebook Messenger chatbot, which was launched to support the campaign.
"I was struck by how succinctly Lena's story demonstrates the impact of small, seemingly inconsequential actions on the generations who come after - and of course the spotlight that throws on our current attitudes to recognising and addressing problematic practices within STEM industries," FINCH’s Kyra Bartley says.
“Far from being a finger-pointing exercise though, the film encourages people to engage with these ideas as part of a broader conversation on diversity, and to consider the ways in which their own actions could contribute to moving us all forward."
GREG ATTWELLS – CO-FOUNDER
CLIENT: CODE LIKE A GIRL
ALLY WATSON – FOUNDER & CEO
JOSEPHINE COLSON – CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER
CREATIVE AGENCY: CLEMENGER BBDO SYDNEY
BEN COULSON - CCO
BRENDAN WILLENBERG - CREATIVE DIRECTOR
BRENDAN FORSTER - HEAD OF CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY
CHRIS PEARCE - SENIOR COPYWRITER
ROWAN FOXCROFT - SENIOR ART DIRECTOR
DAVE LIDSTER - CREATIVE
DANIEL MORTENSEN - HEAD OF CRAFT
IVAN SO - DIGITAL DESIGN LEAD
JAY YOUNG - SENIOR DIGITAL DESIGNER / DEVELOPER
DALE EMROSE - FRONT END DEVELOPER
DENISE MCKEON - HEAD OF INTEGRATED PRODUCTION
CLAIRE BISSET - INTERACTIVE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
NICK GARRETT - CEO
CATH BOSSON - GROUP ACCOUNT DIRECTOR
SMARAN JWORCHAN - SENIOR ACCOUNT DIRECTOR
REBECCA DE BEER - COMMUNICATIONS PLANNER
JOE MAURICI - EDITOR
ALEX GUTERRES – EDITOR
EMILY CORNELIUS- EDITOR
JESS MORGAN – ONLINE EDITOR
ROBBIE BALATINCZ - SOUND ENGINEER
PAUL NAGY – ECD
PRODUCTION COMPANY: FINCH
KYRA BARTLEY - FINCH - DIRECTOR
FRANCESCA WALKER - FINCH - PRODUCED BY
MICHAEL HILLIARD - FINCH - PRODUCER
LUKE MAZZAFERRO - FINCH - PRODUCER
ROB GALLUZZO - FINCH - EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
COREY ESSE – FINCH - EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
LOREN BRADLEY - FINCH - EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
ANNA HOWARD ACS - DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
KRIS ROWE - EDITOR
MEDIA PARTNER AND FILM DISTRIBUTION: FACEBOOK
ANDY BLOOD – CREATIVE STRATEGIST, FACEBOOK CREATIVE SHOP
KAREN MAURICE-O’LEARY – CREATIVE STRATEGIST, FACEBOOK CREATIVE SHOP
DIGITAL AND BOT DEVELOPMENT: KAMBER
JONATHON BINK – BOT UX DESIGN & PRODUCTION
REBECCAH CHURCHWARD – PRODUCER
TECH PLATFORM: THE BOT PLATFORM
SYD LAWRENCE – CEO & CO-FOUNDER
PR (AUSTRALIA): CLEMENGER PR
NICK ZONNIOS – HEAD OF CLEMENGER PR
SOPHIE TRUTER – SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER
GEORGIA RANDALL – PR & SOCIAL COORDINATOR
PR (USA): PORTER NOVELLI
STRAHAN WALLIS - PROJECT LEAD, MANAGING DIRECTOR, PORTER NOVELLI LA
SARAH LEWIS - PROJECT LEAD, ACCOUNT MANAGER, DIVERSITY & INCLUSION CHAMPION, PORTER NOVELLI LA
KYLIE BANKS - MEDIA RELATIONS LEAD, ACCOUNT SUPERVISOR, PORTER NOVELLI LA
ROSIE DE QUELJOE - MEDIA RELATIONS CO-LEAD, SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE, PORTER NOVELLI LA
SARAH VASQUEZ - ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE, PORTER NOVELLI LA
GLADYS CARDENAS - ASSISTANT ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE, PORTER NOVELLI LA
MIRNA GORGY - ACCOUNT COORDINATOR, PORTER NOVELLI LA
HEIDI DEHART - ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE, PORTER NOVELLI SEATTLE
CAROLINE REGAN - ACCOUNT MANAGER, CONE COMMUNICATIONS (A PORTER NOVELLI COMPANY).
SANDY SKEES, US PANEL MODERATOR, GLOBAL LEAD OF INNOVATION & IMPACT PRACTICE, PORTER NOVELLI SF
WHO HAS FEATURED IN THE FILM:
ALLY WATSON, FOUNDER AND CEO OF CODE LIKE A GIRL
ALICIA MORRIS, COMPUTER SCIENCE TEACHER, MENDEZ HIGH SCHOOL IN CALIFORNIA
DAVID LOWE, DEPUTY DEAN OF ENGINEERING, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY
DEANNA NEEDELL, PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS, AT UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES
DEBBIE STERLING, FOUNDER AND CEO OF GOLDIEBLOX
EMILY CHANG, AUTHOR ‘BROTOPIA’ & BLOOMBERG NEWS ANCHOR
GREG ATTWELLS, CO-FOUNDER OF CREATABLE
JANE MARGOLIS, SENIOR RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, AUTHOR AND WHITE HOUSE CHAMPION OF CHANGE
KÁRA MCCULLOUGH, NUCLEAR SCIENTIST AND FORMER MISS USA 2017
LENA, 1972 NOVEMBER PLAYBOY CENTREFOLD
TOK THOMPSON, PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES