March marks the celebration of Women’s History Month, and brands are eagerly stepping up to commemorate women’s achievements while continuing the fight for gender equality. Their timing couldn’t be better. While all of us have been affected in some way by the global pandemic that shut down the world last year, Covid-19’s impact isn’t equal. Women disproportionately suffered employment losses while shouldering the bulk of domestic work and childcare in 2020. In fact, over 5.4 million American women were forced to give up jobs and stay home with kids after schools shuttered. To combat those issues, here’s how some brands are showing their support, both creatively and via capital.
Nike timed the debut of its new “We Play Real” spot to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8. The 60-second commercial focuses on Black women by highlighting their seemingly “magical” accomplishments, before making it pointedly clear that those achievements actually resulted from “blood, sweat and tears.” Top athletes like Serena Williams share the screen with NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and Black Lives Matter activists, while a concluding tagline issues a collective call to action: “Level the playing field for Black women.” Google’s new women-focused campaign, “First of Many,” likewise celebrates fierce female pioneers including chemist Marie Curie and Ozlem Tureci, a German physician who helped develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The spot is slated to air during important March events, including the Grammys, Women’s March Madness and the NAACP Image Awards.
To address the problem of gender inequality when it comes to domestic duties, an issue made worse as a result of the pandemic, IKEA crafted a digital card game that can be played via Instagram Stories. Dubbed FiftyFifty, the game asks questions on topics ranging from participants’ least-favorite chores to how many hours a week are dedicated to cooking or cleaning. The lighthearted diversion is meant to tackle a serious topic: Women are 1.8 times more at risk of losing their jobs, and almost 20 million girls might not return to school next year. In similar style, Smirnoff made a game of exercise by sponsoring a series of virtual workouts followed by happy hours with celebrities. The campaign was in keeping with a current virtual happy hour surge, but more importantly, it aimed to donate $50,000 to Black Girl Ventures, an organization that supports businesses founded by Black and Brown women. In addition to women leaving the workforce in droves recently, Black-owned businesses have been harder hit by the pandemic. Yet there is a silver lining for some. As of mid-December, the US Census Bureau reported over 1.5 million new business applications, many of which were started by women who were able to take advantage of the changed economic landscape and launch new ventures.
The Power of Film
Netflix released a short 70-second film praising female firsts that have occurred on the silver screen, from the first motion picture kiss between women in 1930 to the first Black woman-directed superhero movie, which came out last year. In addition, the streamer pledged $5 million to “programs that help identify, train and provide work placements for up-and-coming women talent around the world,” focusing some of that initiative specifically on underrepresented Latinx talent. And P&G-owned deodorant brand Secret debuted a docuseries as part of its ongoing “Raise It Up” campaign. Called “Secret Superhero Moms,” it honors working mothers’ perseverance during the pandemic while reminding all moms that they are superheroes to their kids. As part of this effort, Secret announced plans to pay childcare costs for more than 100,000 women.
Though the obligations and remunerations of men and women still aren’t commensurate, International Women’s Day has garnered unprecedented attention and support this year. Covid may have corroded some equality progress in 2020, but brands are proving that by standing behind equity and change, progress can be made.