There’s no better day to reflect on the triumphs of women generally, and more specifically in the marketing community, than the International Day of Girls. In 2012, the UN declared October 11 as the day we shine a light on gender equality. While we still have a long way to go, let’s celebrate the meaningful shift we have seen in the marketing world.
In a major and long overdue step forward, we’ve said a farewell to ‘manels’ – all-male panels. Event organizers have come to realize the importance of gender balance in programming from both a content quality and a PR perspective. Goldman Sachs’ VP of Digital and Social Media Strategy, Kaydee Bridges, said the firm’s policy prevents male executives from taking part in a panel unless there is representation from both genders.
Gender equity in the marketing community was kicked off with the introduction of the Glass Lion at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity in 2015. In collaboration with LeanIn.org, the Glass Lion was created to reward outstanding contributions in the creative and marketing communications industry to combat gender biases.
Social media initiatives have taken a storm this year with female empowerment messages reaching men and women across the globe. From hashtags like #SheIsEqual, #SeeItBeIT and #SeeHer, business are being created and flourishing from these movements.
Filmmaker Alma Har’el created Free The Bid, an organisation dedicated to advocating for equal opportunities for women to bid on commercial jobs in the advertising industry. This years Advertising Week in New York City put women’s issues front and center as the Girls’ Lounge offered a variety of presentations on the topic of gender balance and beyond.
Let’s now take a look at the policy shifts – California has now become the first state to require mandatory representation on women on corporate boards by 2020. At present, around 25% of public companies in California do not have any women on their board.
During Advertising Week, Stephanie Stopulos, EVP and MD of Starcom, put forward the suggestion that more companies should sign the ‘Parity Pledge’, “an effort that companies have signed onto where they’ve committed to interviewing at least one qualified woman for every VP role and up. Which I think is a specific thing that companies can do. They’re not saying that they’re going to hire someone unqualified but they’re making sure that pool is diverse”.
The impact of advocating for greater gender balance and equity can be a game changer in terms of business impact for brands. Alison Lewis, CMO of Johnson & Johnson Consumer said,
“Every single company that’s put the gender equality measure into place is seeing they’re making improvements first of all. The second thing we’re seeing is higher ROI associated with ads that have less stereotypes in them than the ones that have more stereotypes. So there’s actually hard metrics now across many, many companies. And so a plug to use that gender equality measure. It’s a simple thing to do. It’s just a few questions you add to your ad testing and boom, you’ll see greater ROI.”
There’s still a long road ahead. Under-representation and misrepresentation of women in media and advertising remains and issue. The road ahead may seem long and windy, but every small win in a step in the right direction.