Equality, Inclusion & Representation
March 8, 2019
In honor of International Women’s Day, I dedicated my first day at SXSW to sessions exploring issues of equality, inclusion, and representation. At the core of each session, and in the spirit of #BalanceforBetter, was a call-to-action and an imperative to do your part – as an individual, as a brand, as a company.
There’s a clear connection between this imperative and our work as marketers and brand builders, but it goes beyond diverse representation in the creative and the campaigns we produce. It needs to start internally with how we hire, promote, and compensate, and extend to how we research our audiences and validate our strategy. As was noted by Rebecca Minkoff in the session “Feminist Rising: Why Brands Must Take a Stand”, brands need to show up for their values; consumers can smell when something is inauthentic.
And the reason for doing this isn’t just because it’s the right thing to do (it is), or because it’s illegal not to (equal pay for equal work is the law), but because there’s a clear business case for doing so. Consider that LGBT adults in the US have $917B in disposable income, and that women drive 85% of consumer decisions and that 82% of women want to shop from women-led businesses. Consider the reputational risk and fallout for brands that don’t do a “common sense” check before launching a product (Gucci “Blackface” sweater) or an ad campaign (Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad).
After spending nearly $9M to resolve compensation discrepancies, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff stated that you can’t be a decent CEO if you’re not committed to gender equality. His leadership in this area is badly needed: 1 in 3 Americans don’t believe a pay gap exists and at the current rate of progress “women will not receive pay equity until 2119”. The company’s efforts at promoting equality have reaped rewards – it was ranked #2 Best Workplaces for Millennials 2018 and ranked #1 for Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 2018.
Increasingly, consumers want to associate with and spend on brands and companies that stand for something and that align and reflect their own values. Doing this correctly requires being educated about your consumer, taking the time to listen and learn about what matters to them, and building teams that are inclusive, diverse, and promote equality.