How brands are honoring International Women’s Day during a pandemic that has been disproportionately harsh on women
In recent years, brands have embraced International Women’s Day as a way to show their alignment with female empowerment, but this year’s International Women’s Day, falling within Women’s History Month, hits a little harder. Men and women remain on unequal footing when it comes to equality, whether it’s at work, in the home or in society—and the coronavirus pandemic has eroded much of the progress so far.
Women around the world have been disproportionately affected with job cuts, lack of access to education and burdened with the bulk of childcare and domestic work, as well as facing unprecedented levels of domestic violence. Nearly 20 million girls are in danger of not returning to school, according to the Malala Fund, and women are 1.8 times more vulnerable to lose their jobs, according to McKinsey data. In the U.S., women have lost more than 5.4 million jobs as many have been forced to remain at home with their children while schools stayed closed. In the past year, December was one of the worst months for women; in total, women lost 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000. Women also form 70% of the world’s health and social sector, tirelessly serving all those suffering from COVID-19. There’s no doubt that women need all the encouragement and support they can get.
Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that this year, the support from brands timed to Women’s History Month—first deemed a month-long celebration by Congress in 1987—and International Women’s Day, which has been around since the early 1900s, has multiplied, with many of the efforts striving to highlight and amplify diverse women heroes in past and recent history.
The issues women are facing at this unprecedented time are highlighted in campaigns from Unilever, Pinterest and others. Meanwhile, Google and Netflix are not only sharing inspiring films dedicated to women pioneers, but are backing up their creative with capital-backed action.
For Women’s History Month, Google is out with not only a new women-focused campaign for TV, digital and social, but has chosen International Women’s Day to announce a fund dedicated to advancing the economic prosperity of women and girls around the world, which its charitable arm Google.org is funding with $25 million.
Called the “Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls,” the program calls upon nonprofits and social organizations to submit ideas for impactful initiatives that will be judged on their impact, feasibility, innovation and scalability. Those selected can receive up to $2 million and mentorship and additional support from Google. Organizations have until April 9 to submit their ideas, and grant recipients will be announced later this year.
“We have a collective responsibility to make sure that generations of women and girls from all walks of life can live in a world where they are treated equally and reach their full potential,” writes Jacquelline Fuller, president of Google.org in a blog post. Fuller adds that over the past five years, Google has given more than $55 million to nonprofits supporting gender equality.
Along with that, Google’s new campaign, called “First of Many,” celebrates women pioneers from chemist Marie Curie to Özlem Türeci, the woman behind a COVID-19 vaccine, and even Cardi B’s Grammy win. The spot was produced by Google’s Brand Studio team and, starting on International Women’s Day, it will air in high profile media moments including the Grammy’s, Women’s March Madness and the NAACP Image Awards, as well as have a Snapchat takeover, according to a Google spokesperson. More than 23 countries are also supporting the campaign with local placements.
To invest in the next generation of female storytellers, Netflix is giving $5 million to “programs that help identify, train and provide work placements for up-and-coming women talent around the world,” Bela Bajaria, head of global TV at Netflix wrote in a blog post announcing the news last week. The $5 million pledge is part of the streaming platform’s new Netflix Fund for Creative Equity program, set up at the end of February to discover and support inclusive storytellers with a goal of investing $20 million a year for the next five years. Netflix will use the $5 million to launch initiatives like mentorship programs in France and Germany and training programs for Latinx women and women in Canada.
“Experience has taught me that great stories are universal: they can come from anywhere, be created by anyone, and be loved by everyone—what matters is that they are told authentically,” writes Bajaria. “Now we need to ensure that traditionally disadvantaged voices—in this case women—get the same chances to be heard in our industry as men have been for generations.”
The streaming platform has come out with a film narrated by writer and director Janet Mock, shared in the blog post and across social media, that praises women firsts in film, from the first kiss between women in a major motion picture in 1930 to the first black woman to direct a superhero movie in 2020. Netflix worked with entertainment marketing agency Bond to create the film. Netflix has also curated an International Women’s Day collection of women’s stories.
The United Nations has found that cases of domestic violence have increased by 20% during the pandemic. In a new campaign timed to International Women’s Day, Unilever is trying to help other companies put a pause to domestic violence by releasing its own global policy around violence and abuse to any company that wants it, hoping that it will help employers that might not have anything in place. The move is accompanied with a powerful 30-second film called “Unmute” that showcases women trying to speak out about domestic violence, but who are set on mute. Unilever is also hosting a LinkedIn Live with #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke and Aline Santos, Unilever’s executive VP, marketing and chief diversity and inclusion officer, on March 4.
“In a year where ‘unmute’ and ‘you’re on mute’ have become some of the most commonly used phrases, Unmute’s purpose is to challenge the stigma and end the silence that surrounds the hidden pandemic of domestic violence,” writes Unilever CEO Alan Jope on LinkedIn.
As part of Secret’s $1 million ongoing pledge to further gender equality, the P&G-owned deodorant brand has announced it will help pay for childcare, workforce development and education costs for more than 100,000 women and their families part of women organization YWCA. The goal is to assist women struggling from the pandemic to reenter the workforce with jobs that can provide for their families.
Along with the donation, Secret has launched a new social docuseries that continues its current “Raise It Up” campaign. In “Secret Superhero Moms,” moms who have shown perseverance during COVID-19 are reminded that to their kids they are superheroes. Three videos in the series highlight different mothers and their families from across the country. Secret is encouraging its followers to share the superhero in their own life with #SecretSuperheroMom and @SecretDeodorant.
For International Women’s Day, Billie, the razor subscription brand designed for women, has a new campaign called “Think of a Woman” with a film and interactive website that aims to challenge society’s view on women and all its unconscious biases. The film, directed by Quinn Whitney Wilson, stars actress and model Indya Moore (“Pose”) who confronts the viewer with a simple question: “What do you think of when you think of the perfect woman?” The brand also worked with Gail Tolstoi-Miller, an unconscious bias expert and diversity and corporate culture strategist, to create the “Billie Brain Scan” exercise which takes people through a series of scenarios to show how their unconscious bias can control their day-to-day thoughts and actions.
This year, The Hershey Co. says there’s no “HERSHEY’s without ‘SHE.’” The chocolate brand is sharing an inspirational film, created in-house across social media, that honors women pioneers like tennis champion Billie Jean King, activist Gloria Steinem and Alicia Garza, credited for co-founding the international Black Lives Matter movement. Along with the film, Hershey’s is encouraging its followers to share photos of women their celebrating on social media with the hashtag #CelebrateSHE.
Hershey’s has also created a special, limited-edition wrapper for its bars where the “she” in the Hershey’s name is colorful, standing out against the usual white and brown, which can be seen at the end of the video. The company is giving out the bars to the first 1,000 visitors to its Hershey’s Chocolate World locations in Hershey, Pennsylvania, New York City Times Square and Las Vegas on International Women’s Day.
"We want to encourage everyone to share some extra goodness and take a moment to celebrate the 'SHEs'; the women and girls who have inspired us, motivated us and have made a positive change in our lives," said Veronica Villasenor, VP, chocolate at The Hershey Co., in a statement.
For the past 35 years, Honda has partnered with the Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA), to honor top women athletes of the year with the Honda Cup. For International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Honda worked with LA-based director Shahana Khan to produce and direct a campaign featuring CWSA alumnae and Honda Cup winners, including basketball legend Ann Meyers, three-time Olympic softball gold medalist Lisa Fernandez, five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Missy Franklin and others. The inspirational campaign is called “When She Leads, She Unstoppable” and runs through the month on Honda’s social channels.
Burger King is twisting the meaning behind the sexist line “women belong in the kitchen” by suggesting that women should hold more chef positions in restaurants. According to the chain, women only comprise 24% of all restaurant chef positions and just 7% of head chef roles. A new Burger King H.E.R. (Helping Equalize Restaurants) scholarship will support women who work at the chain who want to pursue a degree in culinary arts. The restaurant chain unveiled its plan today in a full-page ad in The New York Times. The campaign for the effort comes from David Miami. Burger King U.K.'s tweet reading "Women belong in the kitchen" has been deleted after intense backlash from people saying the text came off as sexist, without the full context of the campaign.
Once upon a time, GoDaddy was known for its sexist TV commercials. Since then, a needed change in leadership and company values made GoDaddy a gender equality advocate. Its International Women’s Day social media campaign “Make No Apologies” praises unapologetic women by highlighting real customers who don’t say they’re sorry for their ideas. Created through GoDaddy's in-house agency, the month-long campaign kicks off with a video featuring Lizzy VanPatten, founder of She Moves Mountains.
Music streaming service Spotfiy has launched a hub called “Equal” to live on its platform beyond Women’s History Month and has planned playlists and podcast takeovers to shine a spotlight on women artists and women podcast creators. To support “Equal,” Spotify is creating a board made up of 15 organizations that will receive grants in order to make the audio industry more equitable, and Spotify will continue the effort into April with a new global music program. To promote the new hub and content push, Spotify has created “Womn,” new music and talk show with special International Women’s Day episodes, more than 200 Spotify playlists will feature women on their cover art and a social video encourages listeners to “flex their power to listen and discover more women creators.”
With women being hit hard by the economic fallout of COVID, Pinterest found that searches for “support small business” increased by 4.5 times and searches for “women supporting women” doubled. To help women-owned businesses this month, the social media platform has redesigned its retail showcase, its Pinterest Shop, to reflect the wares of 25 women-funded, mission-driven small businesses from around the world across beauty, fashion and home. Businesses like Charleston, South Carolina-based Estelle Colored Glass, which sells glass cake stands, and Virgnia-based Nuekie, a skincare brand for people of color, are represented. Pinterest has also created an International Women’s Day Fund for nonprofits helping women to succeed and will match donations from employees.
Only 6.1% of current world leaders are women. Only 7.4% of the companies on the Fortune 500 list are run by women. Women would need to work 36 extra days to earn the same as men in 2020. U.K. flower delivery service Interflora is using red and white rosebuds in bouquets to illustrate startling statistics about gender equality in the workplace in a series of social and out-of-home ads. To support the campaign, Interflora is selling a new bouquet called “The Equal Power Flower Hand Tied” inspired by Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire. The bouquet, which has already sold out, has one red rose within 19 white ones to symbolize the statistic that only 1 in 20 CEOs are women.
Cardi B and Real Women Are
Despite it being 2021, the majority of kids’ dolls are white. Rapper and actress Cardi B has released her own doll timed to Women’s History Month. The star has partnered with new inclusive doll brand Real Women Are, run by women of color, to create and design a doll in her image. When the $35 doll dropped last Friday, after Cardi B announced the news on NBC’s Today Show, fans had only 72 hours to reserve their doll to purchase them in July. In an Instagram post, Cardi B, who was inspired to create the doll for her daughter, says she wants her fans to send her their own ideas for future dolls that capture women in their various careers.
"Working with Real Women Are is a chance for me to provide my daughter and other little girls something that looks like them to play with to inspire them,” said Cardi B in a statement. “We're in the White House now, but we're still so far behind in other places. Representation matters."
Contributing: Jessica Wohl