By Jennifer DaSilva
I say the same thing every International Women’s Day: Brands, the government, and the general public should highlight issues that affect women year-round, not just on a single day.
This year, while I still stand by that statement, to be honest, we NEED the spotlight on IWD right now, more than ever. It’s no secret that women have been more adversely affected by the economic downturn than men: Four times more women have left the workforce due to COVID-19, and the pay gap is set to widen another five percent. As we enter the second quarter of 2021, the SHEcession rages on, with another 275,000 women dropping out of the workforce in January. According to CNBC, women’s participation in the labor force is now at a 33-year low.
The situation is so dire that we’re seeing more brands than ever participating in IWD efforts. Many big corporations are finding new ways to highlight women-owned brands, such as Google’s new fund empowering women and girls globally, Amazon Prime’s Women’s History Month lineup, Grubhub’s promotion of female chefs, and Spotify’s Top Female Voices playlist. Some have even changed their names (Shell to She’ll, Hersheys to herSHEys). I’ve opened my inbox to see countless emails from women-forward brands celebrating IWD (Birchbox, Paige, Gilt, New Balance). But as I’ve said in the past, these temporary spotlights are great, but we need more action in order to turn the SHEcession around.
Women feel that way, too. In a proprietary survey by Berlin Cameron powered by 1Q of 500 women ages 18-55, we found:
- Equal pay and sexual harassment are by far the most important issues facing women right now.
- 89% say women issues should be talked about all year long.
- They believe in each others’ power: 73% say regular citizens have the most power in solving women’s issues.
- 22% still believe it’s an excuse for marketers to talk about themselves.
- The majority think brands can most help by looking internally, at their employee’s growth paths and vendors
So what can people do to help? At my agency, Berlin Cameron, we believe that brands have the power to create cultural change, so we’ve partnered with Action Button to give people for easy ways to take action on the SHEcession: by emailing Congress to support the Marshall Plan for Moms, signing a petition to show support for the Marshall Plan, donating to Dress for Success (which is supporting women during the SHEcession), or mentoring/volunteering locally or through virtual organizations.
But there’s so much more we can do to support women on International Women’s Day — and every day, for that matter. Here are some ideas:
1. Check in with a friend or colleague. Mental health is a huge concern right now, especially for those looking for work. Just sending a quick text or an email can mean a lot to someone who’s struggling.
2. Buy from a woman-owned brand. Our power is in our pocketbooks. Make an effort to seek out and support women-owned and women-loved brands.
3. Shout out a friend’s business on social media. It’s a small gesture that can make a big difference!
4. Offer to mentor a younger colleague. The younger generation has been hit hard by this pandemic, too. Show your support by mentoring. One great idea is The Wie Suite’s new 2 Million Mentor Minutes initiative, which asks women (and men) in leadership roles to donate 60 minutes of their time to mentoring this month.
5. Invite a friend to a group or network you love. Enrollment in the network I started, #Connect4Women, is at an all-time high. We need each other’s support and connections now, more than ever.
6. Encourage a female coworker in a meeting. Cheering on another woman can boost her confidence and promote allyship between women at work.
7. Donate to an organization that empowers women. I already mentioned Dress for Success, but there are nonprofits and organizations that are tackling so many issues women are facing right now. Find one that speaks to you, and give, even if it’s a small amount.
8. Make an introduction. Opening doors for one another is key right now, especially with so many people (men and women!) out of work.
9.Go out of your way to thank a friend who’s done something nice. In today’s fast-paced world, we often don’t slow down to say things like “thank you.” She’ll appreciate it, just as you appreciated her doing something nice for you.
10. Champion a female colleague’s success. Much like cheering her on in a meeting, putting other women up for promotions or accolades helps to advance all of us.
IWD is an important reminder to do all of the above, but it’s crucial to support women all 365 days of the year. Only then will we start to see real change.