Women empowerment campaigns: bullshit v. impact


“Empowering women” has to be one of the most overused phrases in marketing these days. Everybody claims to be doing it: business coaches, cosmetic manufacturers, sports clothing companies, pop stars, mobile phone networks, even chemical companies. Yes, marketing campaigns can – and frequently do – raise awareness of different perspectives on social issues. They can also influence – or more commonly reflect – the zeitgeist, eventually leading to getting key issues on the public agenda.

But let’s not kid ourselves, a social media campaign that goes viral can’t actually empower anyone. Information alone does not lead to empowerment. You don’t need my years of experience as a social and behaviour change consultant to know this. How many people do you know smoke, even though they know it can lead to cancers, heart disease and other health damage?

As a women’s empowerment advocate, I love hearing inspiring messages from advertisers a lot more than the old fashioned washing powder adverts with a man shaming women for having grungy curtains and less than spotless underwear. Thank God we’ve come a long way since then. Modern female empowerment ads are savvy, thought-provoking and catchy – I’ve certainly shared a few on my social media page.

But when multinational corporations claim to empower women through inspiring messages, without showing any evidence of impact – I start to get deeply concerned that this is just marketing fluff. This may come as a shock, but we can tell the difference between hype and actually making a difference. Real empowerment requires takes a hell of a lot more commitment and action than passing on a tweet. So come on you multinationals, show your colours and put your money where your mouth is.

We have plenty of evidence as to what works in empowering women:

  • keeping girls in school, preventing early marriage and providing entrepreneurship training;
  • capacity building, training and mentoring to build leadership skills, business savvy and confidence;
  • enabling women to access to funding and business development and growth opportunities; and
  • creating supportive social, legal and political environments for women around the world.

The good news is women control the market: 80% of consumer decisions globally are made by women. And if you can show us that you are really committed to making a difference, women consumers will show their support and become your best brand advocates.

So, listen up Big Business. Make sure your next marketing campaign isn’t just fluff. If you show us your impact in actually empowering women, we’ll back you all the way. But if you just want to sell goods or services through a ‘feel good’ advertising campaign, don’t claim to be a leader in the women empowerment field. It just pisses us off.

#ImpactNotFLuff #SocialEnterpriseSisterhood @Juliet_LeB