Highlighting Brands Driving Change for Women

Today is International Women's Day and companies everywhere are celebrating women's rights and accomplishments. While this is incredibly positive, my real admiration is for the brands who never needed a date on a calendar to make their contribution to gender equality.

I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate. I was raised within a family that taught me that as a woman I could accomplish nearly anything, whether it was playing the sport of my choice, going to university or succeeding within a corporate environment. I was also born in a country where this is possible. I can vote for the administration I believe best aligns with my values or go to any number of great institutions to better my education.

This is not to say Canada's work is over. As a nation, we still have a long way to go in terms of eliminating the pay gap, better investigating sexual assault, debunking gender "standards" and bettering social support for women's sexual health (just to name a few). That being said, it's still impossible to deny that we are several long strides ahead of other areas in the world. There are many regions where women and girls still are subject to gender-based violence, can't go to school, don't have control of or access to contraception... the list goes on.

Here's a quick shout out to a few of my favourite brands blazing the path for a better tomorrow.

They aren't simply running IWD campaigns. They've placed the betterment of women's lives at the core of their products and communications.

1. R.Riveter

R.Riveter sells unique, handmade purses crafted by military spouses across the U.S. Named after the World War II feminist icon "Rosie the Riveter", R.Riveter seeks to create employment opportunities to the 57%* of military spouses who don't work outside the home, often due to frequent relocations. Their purses aren't just incredibly cool and well-build— buying one is an ingenious way to support the sacrifice thousands of women make for their country.

R.Riveter founders on Shank Tank in 2016

"R.Riveter doesn't hire military spouses to make handbags. We make handbags to hire military spouses, and create a greater sense of mission." https://www.rriveter.com/pages/ourstory

2. Skol

Skol is a Brazilian beer company who recently decided to counteract the exploitation of women that all too common within their industry. Realizing their previous advertising campaigns featured exploitative imagery and recycled tired sexist stereotypes, the company chose to make waves with a different style of messaging. Labeling it their "Reposter" campaign, Skol hired several female artists to reimagine the company's previous ads, painting over the half-naked models with fresh and colourful illustrations that showcased female creativity.

3. Proctor and Gamble

Proctor and Gamble owns some of the world’s largest household consumer brands such as Gillette, Olay, Febreeze, Swiffer, Pampers and Mr. Clean. As the world's largest advertiser (Bloomberg), the impressions they distribute throughout their ads have a major impact on society’s preconceived notions of what it is “to be a girl”. P&G has recognized this and has built positive and empowering messages within the ads of various product campaigns such as “Like a Girl” by Always and their recent Gillette “The Best a Man Can Be” commercial. In 2018, P&G even announced their goal to have 50% female representation amongst the executives in their advertising departments.

4. Seeko

Seeko offers handcrafted fashion accessories that pave the way for Ugandan women to study at university. They focus on employing high school graduates and match their savings by 300%. This year, they're preparing to send their 131st employee to university.

5. Dove

Dove is a Unilever company offering soaps, lotions and deodorants. They’ve built a name for itself through their positive brand messaging which aims to combat the unrealistic beauty standards set by today’s society.

6. Amour Vert

Amour Vert creates high-quality sustainable fashion wear that support female entrepreneurs and designers. Social responsibility is a central aspect of both their business and its success. If you visit their website, you'll notice that not only have they cleverly reworded their version of the generic "About Us" to read "Not About Us", but that the majority of their factories are run and employee local women.

7. Thinx

Thinx (under new management) sells ethically manufactured reusable “period proof” underwear. Their "United For Access" campaign seeks to address and eliminate the sad truth that as many as 100 million girls miss school because they don’t have access to sanitary supplies.

8. Free to be Kids

Free to Be Kids sells ethically-made unisex kids clothing that don't adhere to the gender stereotypes and styles found in most of the big box stores.

Looking forward

I look forward to the day when we don't need a specific date to recognize these issues, but it takes a huge amount of support to drive change.

The brands we chose help shape the society we live in. Whether you are selecting to purchase one product over another, sharing a social media post that moves you, investing in a socially responsible stock or contributing to a fundraising campaign (so many great ones are running today!), the collective choices we make as consumers have a powerful impact on the world around us.

Today, let's celebrate the major milestones made around the world and consider the next steps we can take to bring us closer to gender equality. Let's consider our power as purchasers to create a better world. Finally, for the other marketers and brand owners out there, let's take a closer look at the impact our strategies and campaigns can have. People ultimately support companies that they actually want to see succeed, so let's give them something to support.