Backing Up Words With Action
March was Women's History Month, and with International Women’s Day prompting a significant amount of coverage and content from organisations as well as individuals, it was a month which raised a number of questions about the ways in which we back up what we say.
International Women’s Day took place on 8th March and the theme this year was ‘Breaking the Bias’.
Over March, there was a focus on women in leadership positions and ensuring that women are supported in achieving excellence in the workplace.
We took to LinkedIn to ask how companies should further support women in the workplace and strengthen the representation of all genders in leadership roles.
The most popular answer at 75% was ‘Increased Diversity & Inclusion training for industry or company leaders’, followed by ‘Mentoring for female staff’ at 25%.
Other options included the organisation of more events and initiatives drawing attention to diversity issues, and improved support for calling out instances of bias.
This is clearly a very nuanced issue, but it is revealing that the majority of respondents felt that more training was needed for leaders.
Gender Pay Gap Bot
International Women’s Day also saw a number of companies, universities and organisations posting about the day on social media.
On Twitter, an account called @paygapapp (Gender Pay Gap Bot) retweeted the messages from any organisations with a gender pay gap who had used hashtags like #IWD2022 and revealed how much lower their female staff’s median hourly pay was compared to the men’s.
Several companies deleted their tweets, with some reposting the same content without hashtags in an attempt to fly under the radar of the account and avoid the negative exposure.
“We love to see women empowered in the media, but we don't love seeing women's issues exploited for capital gain”
New York-based community platform ‘The PR Girl Manifesto’ describes itself as ‘an inclusive digital community and industry-leading platform on a mission to make Communications a more accessible career path’.
They recently shared a case study on ‘Femvertising’, which has been defined as ‘advertising that employs pro-female talent, messages, and imagery to empower women and girls’. The post posits that: “while the intentions of femvertising are often to spread awareness about important women’s issues while advocating for women's rights, many brands often drop the ball by relying on dated stereotypes or representing causes they don't actually support behind the scenes.”
They share a number of examples from both ends of the spectrum: those which utilise feminist concepts whilst ultimately upholding gender norms and propagating problematic beauty standards, and those which authentically represent women’s issues and back up their campaigns with actions in order to deliver real results.
It is all too easy to share messages online supporting certain issues simply in order to be seen doing so. Unless we are backing up those messages with careful thought about the actions that could be taken to counter problems or further progress, then these messages of support cannot be seen as authentic.
We have seen the rise of ‘Greenwashing’ in recent years, where organisations paint themselves as more environmentally friendly than is accurate in an attempt to improve their reputations. As the Gender Pay Gap Bot has demonstrated, some organisations take a similar approach to women’s issues.
That is not to say that companies which still have a gender pay gap are not working to improve the situation, or indeed that other organisations set out to cash in on female empowerment with ‘Femvertising’ solely to sell more products to women with no desire to create positive change.
But in this digital age, mistakes or badly thought-out posts or campaigns can be widely shared and their damaging impact on reputation amplified. It’s arguably more important than ever to ensure that we are backing up our words with actions and taking care to align the messages we are sending out with our values and everyday practices.