International Women’s Day commemorates the movement for women’s rights and is celebrated on March 8th every year. It served initially as a form of solidarity for women demanding the right to vote, hold office and protest against employment sex discrimination. So in a year with still no woman elected to hold the office of President in the U.S. and, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, there is more importance and a greater spotlight than ever before on how brands and industries celebrate women.
Agencies and brands have produced thought provoking and inspiring work in celebration of women. There is the now iconic McCann New York’s Fearless Girl Statue, as well as Brawny and AOR Cutwater’s #StrengthHasNoGender campaign which salutes female empowerment by replacing the Brawny man on its packaging with a woman, and Omnicom’s We Are Unlimited campaign in which a California McDonald’s turned its golden arches sign upside down to make it look like a ‘W’ and countless others.
There is no doubt that the work circulating around International Women’s Day is impactful and important. However, to not note the gender inequality prevalent in Marketing and Marketing Research would be a disservice to the true meaning and purpose of the day. In an effort to drive awareness for International Women’s Day and to highlight that women are, STILL, paid on average 25% less than men, J. Walter Thompson London created a provoking outdoor campaign leveraging word play to drive home just how offensive the world can seem with 25% missing. Despite this insightful work however, a recent report found that J Walter Thompson has one of the biggest median pay gaps within the WPP at an unsettling 45% in favor of men. To be clear, J Walter Thompson is not alone and should be praised for their transparency and willingness to better this disparity.
This one example however begs the question of why? Why with there being more educated women in the workforce than ever before must we still battle to gain equality? Organizations are obligated to accept that while it is easier to hire qualified women, it is even more difficult to retain them. Women can only empower other women if they have the opportunity to advance into upper leadership roles and positions, which starts with open and honest dialogue around salary, career development and work life balance. It is difficult for a organizations to asses things like maternity leave, child care, and equal consistent pay when there are no women in roles of leadership that can voice these concerns, however decision makers must take responsibility to allow for all employees to feel valued and important. Through things such as leadership programs, educational and collaborative workshops and mentors, organizations can provide women reassurance that they aren’t alone in striving to be their best. The message of women empowerment is highlighted in Mattel Barbie’s #MoreRoleModels campaign. The campaign stems from the belief that girls imagining they can be anything is only half the battle, but when they see real women role models they have the confidence that they can do it too.
Personally I know I would not be where I am in life if it weren’t for the innovative and empowering women who have inspired me both personally and professionally. So today we celebrate the girls with big dreams who grew up to be women with amazing achievements, and celebrate the knowledge that countless others will follow in their footsteps.