By Deepa Vaidyanathan, Senior Director Communications, P&G Asia Pacific Middle East & Africa
Brands are the most ubiquitous forces in the world and have the power to influence culture, break societal taboos and drive change. Crises like COVID-19 often reveal the inequalities in our society, and this crisis showed us just how much more there is to be done to create an equal world. Brands can promote gender equality through compelling stories that accurately portray women and encourage intentional action.
Hence, we have accelerated our efforts in Equality & Inclusion with deliberate, sustained action, inside and outside of P&G. We have an opportunity and obligation to use our voice as a force for good and a force for growth and to express and reflect our aspirations of equality.
We realized it takes a comprehensive effort with different kinds of platforms to spark change.
First, is leveraging our brand voice
We feel strongly that our advertising voice has a role to play in sparking conversation and removing gender bias. We must break stereotypes with how we portray gender, empower and enable gender-equal conversation. Over the past few years, we have many examples of this from our teams across the region where we have used our voice on important issues through films and campaigns such as- Always ‘Like A Girl’, Ariel ‘Share The Load’, Always ‘Saudi Generation of Firsts’, Always ‘New Brave’, Gillette Salute our Heroes, Always Born Brave, Whisper Touch the Pickle , Gillette Barbershop Girls in India , Gillette GoGoNozizwe in South Africa, Pampers ItTakes Two, etc. These are great examples of how we are challenging stereotypes and uncovering insights.
Second, create forums that enable conversations that are UnSaid and Undone
We recognized early on that we also needed to create a platform to encourage conversations devoted to positive and transformative change. P&G’s annual #WeSeeEqual Forum welcomes those with diverse perspectives and backgrounds enabling employees, partners and changemakers to share their stories as part of an overall commitment to gender equality. The annual event originated from P&G’s aspiration to create a world free from gender bias, a world with equal representation and an equal voice for all individuals.
This year, key topics raised included the aspiration to have 50/50 representation of women at every level in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa by the end of 2022. P&G has committed to spending a cumulative total of $200 million US dollars by deliberately working with women-owned businesses across the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, by 2025. In addition, more than 30 million adolescent girls will be educated on puberty and hygiene across Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, through the Always and Whisper ‘Keeping Girls in School’ program over the next three years.
As something of a precursor to International Women’s Day, the Summit celebrated and acknowledged the dedication and impact of multicultural women. Business leaders, influencers & achievers are encouraged to share career expectations and aspirations for leadership positions using their own experience to enable both men and women to drive gender equality.
Third, we partner with experts to help us drive equality
Over the years we seek the counsel of experts in the field of gender. Brands with purpose are those who value partnership in order to create greater value for society. Vision and purposeful leadership helps all parties to identify and close the gaps that create inequity and then cocreate programs that can change experiences, lives and whole communities. We partnered with organizations like UN Women for our WeSeeEqual summit, UNESCO whom we partnered with in India for our Whisper Keep Girls in school Program to drive economic emancipation of women by starting with education, WeConnect whom we partnered with to encourage women entrepreneurship in different parts of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
Related to this, we also believe we need to be deliberate about working with women owned businesses across our supply chain, offering equal and equitable opportunity. An example of this is the work we did on Always Generation of Firsts in Saudi Arabia– which was the first time we developed a campaign with an all female Saudi crew both in front and behind the camera
Now more than ever, companies and organizations must remain committed to equality and inclusion and stay focused on delivering a more equal world inside and outside our immediate environments. More than a one-off campaign, brands have the power to do much more. This is just the beginning. It is now time for brands to choose to challenge, to help create more diverse and gender responsive supply chains. With more complex and considered programs in place, we can accelerate awareness around the underlying issues whilst delivering meaningful economic empowerment.