We’re writing this from our base in Greater #Womanchester, part of the wider #RadicalManchester campaign to change the city’s name to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) today and recognise its leading role in the fight for women’s suffrage and innovations in business, science, health, arts, culture and sport.
And this year IWD feels particularly significant, not only because of it’s the centenary of the suffragettes, but because #MeToo and #TimesUp have raised mainstream awareness of exclusion, disparity, harassment and abuse. This year’s theme is #PressforProgress, reflecting the growing global support for gender parity and equality.
Because the original aim of IWD – to achieve full equality for women around the world – is still a long way from being realised. A gender pay gap persists across the globe, and women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2017 found gender parity is 217 years away globally, a pretty depressing assessment. In real terms, the gender pay gap means that, last year, women effectively worked for free for 51 days of the year.
When one of our Fireworkers tried to explain the gender pay gap to her 8-year-old daughter on the way to school this morning, she looked at them with confusion. ‘But Mum, that’s not fair!’ she said. ‘Why is that allowed?’
It left them feeling the same way as when children ask why people have to sleep on the streets; totally ashamed of our society. Especially as, after years of decline, research has shown that the gender pay gap for women in their 20s is growing; with some being paid less than men from the start of their careers.
So what are brands doing to highlight the issue, celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and call for gender equality? From issuing all-women flight crews, to special sporting events, to launches of major new female-focused initiatives – there is a significant level of #PressforProgress campaign activity underway.
The Mr Men and Little Miss series, owned by Sanrio, is getting a new addition; Little Miss Inventor to coincide with International Woman’s Day. The new character is the 36th Little Miss to join the iconic children’s franchise is aimed at encouraging young girls to pursue science and consider a career in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM).
Brewdog has attempted to tackle the issue of gender pay inequality and sexist marketing with the launch of a “new beer” – Pink IPA. In an attempt at irony, they dubbed it, in its bright pink packaging, “beer for girls” and will charge women 20% less for the beer even though it’s identical to its blue-branded Punk IPA. In doing so, the company aims to trigger questions about why women earn less than their male counterparts. The brand is also donating 20% of its proceeds from sales of both beers to causes that fight against gender inequality, in addition to calling for clear reporting around calculating the gender pay gap and what businesses should do to close it.
Troubled taxi firm Uber has released a film that aims to shine a light on its female drivers. The campaign, titled #DrivenWomen, brings together women who have joined Uber as a way to earn an income while also balancing other responsibilities, such as family, work, and education. And Vodafone has released a new short film raising the issue of gender stereotypes and its work to improve gender diversity and women’s empowerment. The ‘Raising Voices’ film, features child actors asking questions such as ‘Why are almost all superheroes men’ and ‘Why have there been so many male presidents, but so few women’.
So while steps are being made, there’s still a way to go. While it’s become an annual calendar event that brands love to get behind, we mustn’t forget that International Women’s Day has a very real purpose. It brings together governments, charities, organisations and companies to celebrate the success of women across the world, and to look at where more can be done to further the fight for equality. Which is why it’s so vital that we #Pressforprogress now.