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How brands reacted to International Women’s Day 2017

Brands and businesses are evermore commenting on the social and political climate as events unfold. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’ve created a compilation of a few outstanding efforts.

International Women’s Day (IWD) not only celebrates the achievements of women in the political, societal, cultural and economic aspects of life but it also calls for greater awareness and action in reaching gender parity.  More recently, it has gained momentum and is an annual celebration which stands out from the ‘Hashtag Holidays’, such as #NationalSiblingsDay, #NationalBeerDay and the list goes on.

IWD started back in 1908, with women marching in the streets of New York City demanding better wages and the right to vote. Since then the 8th of March has been designated as a celebration of women, their accomplishments, their struggles, and their rights. Recently, there has been a renewed focus on IWD by businesses, contributing through art, technology and advertisements.

What did businesses do for this IWD 2017?

Ad agency BETC São Paolo created an app to analyse the phenomenon of ‘Manterruption’, where men are more likely to interrupt women. The app uses the phone’s microphone to detect daily conversations and then measures how many times men interrupted women. The overall purpose of the app is to expose how frequent ‘manterruption’ occurs. BETC believe equal voices amongst men and women will bring us closer to reaching gender equality.

While some turned to tech as an outlet to help kick ‘normalised’ habits, others utilised standalone art to draw attention to gender issues in finance. In New York City, State Street Global Advisors, a financial firm, dropped a statue of a young girl opposing the iconic Charging Bull statue on Wall Street.  This guerrilla art calls out the pithy gender diversity figures on Wall Street firms: 85% of which are men and only 25% of board positions are filled by women.

Nike Women is yet another brand that used IWD as another opportunity to further its messages of ‘Believe in more’ and ‘This is us’, “encouraging and inspiring women to get more active despite the barriers in doing so”.

Nike used IWD to spotlight its creative work in support of female empowerment with campaigns from Russia, India, Turkey and the Middle East.  The variation in cultures highlights the underlying message that athleticism and ambition amongst women are something to behold.

Nike targets specific markets and assesses their political and cultural landscapes in order to better relate to the customer.  For example, Turkish society still holds traditional gender norms regarding women’s appearance; women can be attacked for not wearing what’s considered conservatively appropriate clothing.  Nike’s spot titled, ‘What Will They Say About You?’, shows a young woman skateboarding along the sidewalk wearing their sport hijab while men look on disapprovingly, with a voiceover saying ‘That is not for you’ and ‘You shouldn’t be here’.  Russia also has very traditional views of womanhood and girls are expected to conform.  Recently, President Putin signed a law which effectively decriminalised domestic violence. In this harrowing news, Nike Women takes a well-known traditional Russian verse about what girls are ‘made of’ and altered the lyrics, replacing narrow-minded gender roles with visions of female athletes conquering in their respective arenas.

While gender discrimination and constrictive gender norms are still present in various places around the world, Nike celebrates the female athletes who actively defy this.

Audi’s advert, “Daughter” for the Super Bowl is another that trumpets a message of support for female empowerment, using #DriveProgress to link itself with the cause. The luxury German automaker aimed at ‘communicating inclusiveness’ while traditionally, automakers have targeted men through advertising.  Audi recognises women are “primary choice makers” in households and are often the influencers when it comes to domestic purchases. While Audi’s alignment is a sensible and laudable one, it’s been critiqued for the way in which it communicated negative statements that the company doesn’t believe in; negative statements outshine the positive- “Do I tell her that her grandpa is worth more than her grandma? Or that her dad is worth more than her mum? Despite her education, her skills, her drive, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?”

These are just a few examples of businesses that are now reacting to the times and are taking a stance.  We strive to see the day in which an event designated to celebrate and fight for gender parity isn’t necessary. One hundred and nine years have passed, and that’s enough.


For further reading from The Team on IWD 2017 Read ‘Is that a “nasty” “shrill” voice we hear?’  

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