International Women’s Day 2019: Brands continue the battle for equality

International Women’s Day 2019: Brands continue the battle for equality

International Women’s Day is a global event that celebrates the inspiring social, political, economic and cultural achievements of women, whilst also highlighting the gender inequality that still exists throughout society today. The event has been celebrated in various forms since the early 1900s and has led to the 8th March becoming a focal point for the women’s rights movement.

The day also offers brands and organisations a perfect opportunity to join the movement and promote their gender-equality messaging that aims to overthrow the ideology of patriarchy. We take a look at how a handful of businesses celebrated International Women’s Day this year.


In 2018, it was revealed that more men called Dave were leading FTSE 100 companies than women in total, and this balance is showing little sign of being readdressed.

At a recent Creative Equals #CELeaders conference, broadcaster and BBC QI presenter, Sandi Toksvig, reminded the attendees of this fact and how the journey to gender equality in the workplace is a long one, which will continue for some time. As a prime example, it was only a couple of months ago that Sandi spoke out about the fact that she is paid just 40% of what the previous QI host, Stephen Fry, was paid – despite her asking for equal pay.

After speaking at the #CELeaders conference, Sandi’s words sparked the #ImADave campaign, where the Creative Equality Organisation encouraged women to change their first names to ‘Dave’ on their social media channels during International Women’s Day and thereby draw attention to gender inequality in the workplace. The campaign also called on women to share the reasons why they were taking part in the campaign to demonstrate specific examples of gender imbalance in business and encourage change throughout all industries.

Breaking the Plastic Ceiling

With International Women’s Day and Barbie’s 60th anniversary on consecutive days this year, Mattel was not going to keep their celebrations quiet. As a part of Barbie’s commitment to #CloseTheDreamGap, the brand has added further dolls to its Role Model collection, honouring women from around the world who are breaking boundaries to inspire the next generation – from aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart to film director Patty Jenkins; and cycling champion Kristina Vogel to British activist and supermodel Adwoa Aboah.

The aim is to introduce girls to stories of women from all walks of life so that they can see opportunities for themselves and know that they can be anything they want to be.

Of course, the brand regularly attracts criticism and despite the Barbie range having diversified in recent years to include different shapes, sizes, races and disabilities – critics argue that girls shouldn’t feel pressured to fit into any one category. Perhaps the brand still has a way to go, but they’ve come a long way from the days of promoting only one kind of unrealistic body image. And with Barbie set to hit the big screen next year, played by Margot Robbie, fans and critics alike will be eager to see how the Hollywood interpretation is presented.

Channel Your Crazy

Nike’s latest campaign focuses on women that are breaking down barriers in their individual fields, inspiring future generations and celebrating women across all sports. Narrated by 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, the short film features footage of a number of women including quadruple gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, snowboarding champion Chloe Kim and members of the US Women’s National Soccer Team.

The film questions the use of derogatory language that is often used to describe women, such as showing emotion being ‘dramatic’, or anger interpreted as ‘hysterical, irrational or just being crazy’. Serena also narrates her own ‘crazy’ achievements, including recently becoming a mother and returning to the sport for more, before concluding: “if they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do.”

Striving for positive change

These examples are just a snapshot of how some brands are effectively communicating around important issues such as gender equality. It’s encouraging to see more organisations year on year using their brand power to strive for positive change and this demonstrates how vital a good communications strategy is to raise awareness around key issues and position your brand at the centre of such crucial conversations.

Do you think these brands got it right? Tweet us @Francesca_NeoPR or @NeoPRLtd.

If you enjoyed this, check out these blog posts about brand campaigns:

Francesca Bull

Account Director.