The thing about bookmarks is that they’re less a means of remembering something than they are a mechanism by which you can afford to forget it. So it has proved for the fast-food giants, who by creating campaigns around IWD have only served to highlight how their industry fails women. Labour’s Momentum faction went as far as releasing a retaliatory video explaining how McDonald’s zero-hour contracts and meagre wages had forced some of its female employees into homelessness. In the US the burger chain has long fought against minimum wage increases, something that disproportionately affects women.
Meanwhile KFC’s declaration that women’s future is ‘always bright, equal, safe and rewarding’ seems particularly tone deaf at a time when the #metoo movement continues to lay bare how the majority of today’s workplaces are none of these things. Perhaps the most painfully resonant statement was that posted on the brands Malaysian site, informing customers that Claudia was ‘the 12th ingredient to the Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices.’ KFC were clearly making an important point about how women’s contributions in the workplace are systematically concealed and co-opted by their male counterparts…right?
As former BBH president Cindy Gallop has spent years reiterating to brands and agencies alike (most recently with reference to pay inequality at WPP): ‘Don’t create campaigns or stunts about diversity. Don’t make compelling content about diversity. Be diverse.’ Rather than celebrating IWD, businesses need to take the structural steps to make it obsolete. If the social imperative isn’t enough (and sadly it seems that it isn’t), they should at least consider the impact on their bottom lines. A recent McKinsey Global Institute report finds that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality, something that’s more than likely to make up for the shortfall in opportunistic marketing campaigns.
For more on how to fight gender inequality in the workplace, check out our Female Futures channel on LS:N Global.
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