Greg Fournier
Mar 21, 2017

Brands are stepping up for gender equality

A more gender-balanced workplace is no longer just nice to have, it's essential for organisations that want to grow and prosper in an ever-changing global market.

Brands are stepping up for gender equality

Diversity adds enormous value—it provides an organisation with the ability to see things in 360 degrees, and brings with it a broader skill set to solve problems. Ultimately, diversity positively affects the bottom line. According to Mckinsey's 'Diversity Matters' report, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.

Yet, despite this growing acceptance of the crucial role of diversity and gender equality in the workplace, we still see enormous gaps—particularly in Asia-Pacific. A report released by Korn Ferry and the National University of Singapore last year that tracked board composition of the top 100 listed companies in 100 economies across APAC found that women make up just 10.2 percent of boards across the region. This lags a long way behind Western economies like the UK where women now make up 26 percent of all FTSE 100 boards, thanks in part to initiatives like the Davies Report.

The Korn Ferry report also found that most of the countries reviewed showed little or no improvement from the previous year—only Malaysia ( up 4.2 percent), Australia (up 3.3 percent) and India (up 1.3 percent) saw increases in the numbers of women on boards. This is a huge cause for concern—diversity at board and senior management level is globally recognised as being best practice for embedding a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the business. At Unruly, 44 percent of our board is female, and that hasn't been achieved through enforcing quotas, it's been achieved from the ground up by building a company culture that recognises and rewards great work, wherever and whoever it comes from.

The lack of female representation at senior levels in Asia-Pacific doesn't stem from a lack of talented women—according to the Mckinsey report 'Women Matter', half of Asian graduates are female. But once these women enter the workforce, they face entrenched patriarchal attitudes that allow organisations to turn a blind eye to the diversity agenda, and the perceived roles of women to go unchallenged.

This is an area where our industry can help. Advertising is one of the most pervasive and powerful cultural genres of our age—we are in a unique position to challenge norms at scale, and in doing so, make a big impact on the world we live in.

Increasingly, we are seeing brands step up and use their marketing budgets to make a positive difference. The scale and reach of these companies means social video has enormous power to inspire and empower change.

Unilever announced its 'Unstereotype' movement at Cannes last year—pledging to change the way it portrays gender in its advertising. In their own words, they want to "move away from unhelpful stereotypical portrayals of gender, especially for women, to deliver fresh campaigns that are more relevant to today¹s consumer."

And they're not the only ones—in the past couple years we've seen amazing campaigns from P&G, Verizon, Sport England and Mattel, just to name a few, that seek to challenge ingrained attitudes or stereotypes, and inspire change.

As an industry we need to continue to work together to create content that addresses the issues of diversity and gender equality, particularly in our region. Collectively, if we continue to #BeBoldForChange, we can make a difference.

— Greg Fournier, Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships at Unruly, APAC

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