Let The Legacy Of International Women’s Day Be Practical Support From Business

By Jennifer Frieman, Global Chief Talent Officer at Momentum Worldwide 

Actions really do speak louder than words. Yet there are always hundreds of conversations in the media, on my social feeds, and within businesses around International Women’s Day and how to mark it. But with 5.4 million women losing their jobs since the pandemic hit, it’s not good enough to pat women on the back and provide words of encouragement about change and support. Businesses need to provide real opportunities to help women get back on track and progress in their careers. And this is happening; there is hope. I’ve started to see brands stepping up to the mark in 2021 with positive actions, not short-term initiatives, to actually help women.

Stepping up to the plate, Secret, owned by P&G, launched the #RaiseItUp campaign to encourage women to share what it means to raise it up at home and work. The campaign provided a fund for things like childcare and career development for women negatively impacted by the pandemic. The campaign was designed and launched with a true understanding of how women have been affected and what practical steps could be taken to improve their lives. It also gives women the freedom to use the fund in whichever way works best for them. The campaign recognizes that there isn’t one answer to “how do we help women’s careers now?” Yes, there are overarching issues to be addressed, but people have been impacted in different ways, depending on their industry and individual circumstances, and P&G has acknowledged this.

Google is taking similar action. To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, they announced “Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls,” which asks non-profits and social organizations to submit ideas that will be judged on their impact, feasibility and opportunity to expand. The ideas selected could be given up to $2 million, as well as mentorship and support from Google. Organizations have until April 9 to send ideas. Google has the knowledge, infrastructure and funding to help make good things happen, so I’ll be watching this closing to see which amazing ideas are put into positive action.

Others are using IWD as motivation to gather momentum toward their goal of helping women, such as with Verizon. Following its launch of Women in Business in June 2020, Verizon announced Women’s CoLab, which builds upon several of the company’s initiatives to champion women’s advancement. The new effort is a collaborative career engine for women worldwide and will bring together resources to succeed both during the pandemic and beyond in an increasingly digital world. Those who are involved will get access to trailblazing leaders, best-in-class development resources, and a wide range of tools to remain in the workplace and thrive.

Businesses have been busy in the creative sector, too. Music streaming giant Spotify has launched “Equal,” a hub with playlists and podcast takeovers of female artists and podcast creators. To support “Equal,” Spotify is creating a board of 15 organizations that will receive grants in order to make the audio industry more equal. Similarly, Netflix, which has profited through people’s need for entertainment and escapism during the pandemic, is addressing the need for action around female content creation. It’s investing $5 million in the next generation of female storytellers as part of the brand’s “Netflix Fund for Creative Equity program.” The program aims to discover and support inclusive storytellers with a goal of investing $20 million a year for the next five years. Both Spotify and Netflix realize female representation in the creative sector has taken a hit and continued work is needed to address the gender balance in this area, so these steps are in the right direction.

There are many benefits when businesses create long-term programs to support and attract great people, and that’s why Momentum launched the Project Project back in 2018. It’s a program designed to support women reentering the industry after taking an extended time out to raise families or care for others. The program is designed to immerse skilled marketing creatives in a reentry learning program and is then followed by the opportunity to join the agency via freelance or in a full-time role.

Of course, I’d like women to not be in this position, but we need to do something, in fact, many things, about it. Brands are investing in women. Businesses know they need to do more. Yes, women’s careers have been disproportionately affected, but this disruption is leading to brands rethinking how they can offer action and support that shows empathy, insights and innovation. Change is coming.

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