The Audi Ad is Empowered, Employees not so much

This week, Audi released a feel-good ad for the Superbowl. Women's positive messaging abounds during that game, due partly to the #NotBuyingCampaign launched a few years ago.

The new Audi ad stars a girl racing go-karts, overtaking a boy on the track, and an adoring dad wanting a sexism-free future for her. Like most commercials of "Femvertising", it received lots of happy emojis in social media and all around.

But a story in AdAge astutely noted that this Go-Girl message might sound odd to the adult women at Audi who are not offered the driver's seat. Hats off to writer E.J. Schultz who showed the company's leadership lacks women.

Replying to the criticism from AdWeek, a spokesman stated:

"Today, women comprise roughly 12% of Audi senior management workforce, including our senior VP, chief communications officer and senior director of human resources. In 2017 and beyond, we continue to support pay equality and pledge to put aggressive hiring and development strategies in place to increase the number of women in our workforce, at all levels."

At Audi's German office, the board lacks women; German management did set a few goals and then decided they were too hard:

from Audi AG website. 

from Audi AG website. 

When it comes to women, Audi does better than its parent company Volkswagen US which merits a C on our index of Gender Metrics. Call it a gentleman's C. Note the A for employee programs--meaning there are some family friendly offerings.

Score for Audi's Parent Company Volkswagen in US--Other score is Philanthropy

Score for Audi's Parent Company Volkswagen in US--Other score is Philanthropy

Breakdown of Scores for Audi Parent Company Volkswagen in US.

Breakdown of Scores for Audi Parent Company Volkswagen in US.

Our index tracks parent companis, but if done separately, Audi's own score would add up to a B. Although Audi US is not winning in women's leadership, recently it has been making moves toward becoming more Gender Fair. Two years ago, it started a women's employee resource group--not quite as good as a dedicated leadership development program which companies run to bring up more managers. Nor does it publish the percentage of women managers. The company's career page talks about extended maternity leave--but doesn't list the duration or whether it's paid. Last December, Audi signed onto the White House Equal Pay Pledge along with 100 other US firms. For 14 years, Audi has done female focussed philanthropy--with the American Film Institute which helps one director yearly. And this ad, would get an A for breaking stereotypes on our index.

What's different about the Audi ad is the reception. Usually, a virally happy-making message about a company encouraging girls, gets shared around, with no investigation into the level of empowerment for company employees. But the Audi spot suffered some real blow back--for not walking the talk entirely.

People are getting hip to the idea that companies can't just use equality to sell. Empowerment should be on the inside as well as the outside. Buyers who care about equality want it both ways--and leadership is a key piece. Brands like P&G, HP, GAP that empower women in their messaging and inside their companies will win. Or should we say score.

Three Reasons Empowerment is the New Stereotype Women Hate

By Kristi Faulkner

Marketing to women has never been more important -- or easier, it would seem. Every brand is now expected to make an effort, and fortunately the formula is simple: Celebrate women for being women; offer them a feminist-sounding brand message; make sure to communicate your product was created with the goal of empowering them, and that’s why they need to buy it. But the logic is reductive and circular: Empowered women need your brand to empower them because without your brand, they’re not empowered.

It’s a marketing booby-trap that’s perpetuating a new stereotype: The Empowered Woman. Ironically, the message repeated to these women is, “You are not really empowered, but you want to be, don’t you?” And its simplistic overuse is beginning to make lots of women angry.

Consider the reactions of these three new campaigns designed to target The Empowered Woman:

Vera Bradley. The handbag designer surely had good intentions to celebrate empowered women with a campaign called “It’s Good to be a Girl.” But unfortunately, most of the reasons are insipid and superficial: Girls, it’s ok to need five shades of lipstick! Girls, we get to eat ice cream after a breakup! Girls, we’re lucky we get our wine poured first! Women didn’t embrace the message and took to social media to ridicule the company for infantilizing women as girls, ignoring real gender issues like the wage gap and demeaning women with antiquated ideas of what they care about most. Many questioned the need for Vera Bradley handbags in the first place. Wrangler. The intention of the “More Than a Bum” campaign launched in the UK this week was, as Marketing Director Ilaria Pasquinelli said, for a woman to “focus on what really matters in her life, with what really makes her her." Unfortunately, the ad focuses on what really matters to Wrangler. Their bums. Even though the three-minute film features musical performer Kimbra, Olympic volleyball medalist Francesca Piccinini and the dancer and choreographer Nikeata Thompson, women still found the empowerment message insulting. As one particularly cheeky consumer expressed: “You have severely underestimated your audience. We are beyond this kind of patronizing, piss-weak 'feminism'.” Bummer for Wrangler. Cosmopolitan UK teamed up with European automotive maker SEAT to design a car just for the empowered women, complete with “exclusive design and thoughtful feminine touches.” Women are meant to be attracted to the car by its Candy White color, its headlights designed in an “eyeliner shape, emphasized in the same way makeup emphasizes the eye” and a “jeweled, bicolor rim design.” Oh, and the car has a handbag hook, too. But best of all, the car is touted for being “easy to park,” because you know how empowered women have trouble parking, especially when their nails are wet. This campaign has truly incensed women in the UK, who were not having a good week to begin with. They bashed the two companies all over social media, and took the additional step of starting a petition on urging the companies “apologize for the mass generalization and for insinuating that all women carry designer handbags, gossip dramatically, need help parking and that all girls 'going somewhere' need a car.” You can sign the petition here. Marketing to women has certainly evolved, but as long as marketers continue to play in the sandbox of stereotypes, no matter how modern they are, they are stuck in the past. Brands, be warned. Today’s empowered woman will turn her power against you in 140 characters or less.

Article originally published on Media Village

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Dozens of Companies Take White House Equal Pay Pledge

by Emily Bader
On Jun.14, 2016, the White House announced the White House Equal Pay Pledge at the USOW. By taking the pledge, businesses commit to closing the gender pay gap and promise “equal pay for equal work" in the private sector to solve its own longstanding problem.

Despite numerous laws, policies, and actions taken by the government to close the pay gap — such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963 — today’s average woman only makes 79 cents to a man’s dollar; the wage disparity is even lower for women of color. However, this time is different: instead of attempting to legislate, the president is trying a new tactic and directly asking businesses to change.

The White House said, “Building on the Administration’s numerous actions to close the national pay gap, the White House challenged businesses to take the Equal Pay Pledge.” Should a business sign the pledge, it commits to:

  • Conducting an annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations.
  • Reviewing hiring and promotion processes and procedures to reduce unconscious bias and structural barriers.
  • Embedding equal pay efforts into broader enterprise-wide equity initiatives.
  • Identifying and promoting other best practices that will close the national wage gap to ensure fundamental fairness for all workers.

Obama noted that several companies have already taken huge strides toward equal pay. The President encouraged consumers to do their part in driving this change by voting with their wallets at the Pledged companies:

“We should encourage more businesses to join them; we should shop and frequent those companies that are doing the right thing because the truth is, most folks agree with each other on this.”

Those that have signed the pledge have made other strides in fairness. Many companies that received an A score from Buy Up Index also signed the Pledge, which underscores their commitment and makes them Gender Fair.

  • Amazon
  • Gap
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • L'Oréal

L'Oréal USA is the first American company to be certified with EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality). As of 2014, Gap, Inc. became the first Fortune 500 company to announce equal pay on average across the company; Amazon actively investigates its business, from hiring practices to career development, to determine if they have unconscious biases that work against women.

Since taking office, President Obama has addressed equal pay. His first act of legislation signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But the 79 percent figure still holds. He also warned that although he has seen some progress, the American people cannot wait for Congress: “They’re usually a lagging indicator on these issues.” He added that, “If we really want workplace policies that work for everybody, I will say, though, it would help if we had more women in Congress. It would help if we had more women in the corner suite.”

President Obama did mention that the White House and his administration leads by example, “We try to set a good example by giving our employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave.”

Site Fairygodboss Knows What Women Want From Employers

In just a year, Fairygodboss has collected anonymous reviews by women of 20,000 employers. This powerful database displays information on benefits, employment policies, job satisfaction, perceptions of equality and more.

Happily, the tech companies that were top rated for job satisfaction on Fairygodboss, also scored high on Buy Up Index. This suggests that the public data on gender equality collected by Buy Up Index, doesn't just make a company look good on paper, but creates genuinine employee happiness.

The Fairygodboss team worked with a statistician to cull common themes and topics and were able to identify five factors that are highly related to job satisfaction for women:

1. Women are more satisfied where gender equality prevails.
Women who rate their experience highly in terms of job satisfaction are more likely to commend their employer for having a culture where women are treated fairly across many dimensions. As an example, one woman at American Express wrote: "Women are treated equally for promotions. There are still more male senior executives but it does seem like the company is devoting major efforts to promote women."

2. Women are more satisfied when they see gender-balanced management teams.

Women who posted high job satisfaction observed many women throughout the management ranks above them, indicating both opportunity and support for their careers. From a woman at Prudential: "I've worked here for over 5 years and there are many women working here. Several women in leadership which is great to see."

3. Women are more satisfied at employers that promote work/life balance.
Work/life balance emerges as a major theme in the research. There is a high correlation between women's job satisfaction and comments such as this one from a research engineer: "New Balance is very respectful of the fact that employees (both men and women) have a life outside of work...There is virtually no pressure to work longer hours on a regular basis. Using all your vacation/paid time off as needed is also perfectly OK."

Women are more satisfied at employers with family-friendly values and practices.
Women are more satisfied working for employers that have empathy and respect for their responsibilities at home. From a Vice President at ADP: "ADP has allowed me to provide for my family financially, and I have not ever missed anything for my children...which makes me run through brick walls for ADP."

5.Women are more satisfied when they have received and taken more paid maternity leave.

Fairygodboss has observed a direct correlation between the length of paid maternity leave a woman takes and her job satisfaction. One Johnson & Johnson employee said: "In the 6 years I have worked here, I have seen some truly amazing things. For example, paid maternity leave is paid at 100% of the employee's salary, is not held against them, and was recently extended from 12 weeks to 17 weeks."

For employers that are committed to improving the numbers and experiences of women in the workplace, it is essential to understand the factors and levers that impact female talent's decisions about where to work -- and stay. Once the factors are clearly identified, employers can begin to break down the obstacles that prevent women from achieving success throughout the senior ranks of organizations, allocating resources wisely and deliberately.

You can take a closer look at the data here

A Purse Full of Dollars: How Women Changed the World with Money

The Buy Up Index is all about using women's dollars to create change. So to celebrate Women's History Month, we decided to honor those who came before us. Some of our forebears realized that money could bring them a bigger serving of equality and make things better for those who followed. Even if we may not have the fortunes that some of these women controlled, by amalgamating our buying power, we can also direct meaningful change.

We found some surprising stories of women who used their capital powerfully. Born a slave, Mary Ellen Pleasant leveled the playing field for herself with money and used it to fund John Brown's raid, as well as the Underground Railroad. After making a fortune on "Gone With the Wind," Margaret Mitchell gave many scholarships to Morehouse College students, gifts she had to keep quiet in racist Atlanta. Even back in the nineteenth century, Victoria Woodhull understood that money got her a seat at the table and a shot to really change things. She used her fortune to start a political party and run for president. In her magazine, she went after corruption, including a powerful but adulterating preacher and dirty businessmen. Many know of Mme C.J. Walker, but she actually learned the business from Annie Malone, a businesswoman who started the first schools for African American cosmetology on top of running her hair product company — with a radically African name.

In the spirit of Pleasant, Woodhull, Malone, and Mrs "Frank" Leslie, use your dollars for change. Download Buy Up Index today and start shopping for equality.

Buy Up Campaign: Shop Women Friendly Companies

You have power to change the world each and every time you go to the store. And if you believe in gender equality, you can shop in a way that matches your principles.

Buy Up Index shows you which companies are really committed to making the world fairer for women.

We joined up with the Buycott team for this special campaign to encourage you to Buy Up products from women-friendly companies - instead of boycotting companies that disappoint us. It’s positive reinforcement.

We’ve made a list of 10 companies that will sell you everything from soap to scotch, with tampons, soup, laundry liqud, and ice cream in between. Basically, your weekly shopping list can be entirely #GenderFair.

All the companies in the campaign received an “A” rating on the Buy Up Index for good female leadership, employee policies, marketing, and philanthropy. You can see their full scores on the BuyUpIndex app and get more details about company policies, programs, causes, etc.

When shopping, you can use the Buycott app to scan products and find those on this Super Gender Equality List:

Avon has raised awareness and funded programs on domestic violence since 1994, as well as having a female CEO.

Diageo created a $10 million Plan W to empower two million women in 17 countries by 2017, signed the UN’s Women Empowerment Principles, has a target of 30 percent female executives and 50 percent new MBA hires, and requires leadership shortlists to include women.

Danone recently announced a six-month paid parental leave that extends to same sex couples, and the company has been tracking gender in various levels of leadership since 2009.

General Mills produces an Annual Diversity Scorecard with specific goals for leadership, factors diversity outcomes into compensation, and allows new moms to phase back into work over eight weeks.

Kellogg’s leadership program, Women of Kellogg, has chapters worldwide, and the company has a goal to identify women farmers in the supply chain and provide them resources and assistance by 2020.

L’Oreal has reached 57 percent women managers and guarantees 14 weeks paid maternity leave across 68 countries.

J&J’s program with Smith College created an 30 percent increase in women executives. Plus, moms who give birth get 17 paid weeks off; paternal and adoptive parents get eight weeks.

Nestlé stated its goal to become gender balanced by 2018. It also has 77 trainers in unconscious bias who work throughout the company.

P&G claims a board that is nearly half women (45 percent), and their Work@flex program personalizes schedules. The company committed to give $5 million to programs that break barriers for girls.

Unilever has set goals to empower five million women in the supply chain by 2020, and 73 percent employees compress their workweek.

We encourage you to choose your purchases from these "A" companies, so they are rewarded for making a difference in women’s lives. Then please take the time to send a Tweet or Facebook message — companies really respond to customer feedback. Not only will you be giving them your valuable social media love and business, but hopefully, your action will inspire all their competitors to do likewise. Just imagine how much gender equality that would be.

Your dollar is your vote. So remember, vote for women.

Be a Shopping Superhero!

Email to get a PDF shopping list of #GenderFair brands.

Report on Women in the Retail Banking Industry

By Kimberly Killen

Working women in the US generate $4.3 trillion of earned income. The eight million women-owned businesses generate $3 trillion. There’s $11 trillion investable assets. Many of those dollars pass in and out of banks.

Sure, the big retail banks issue credit cards, but do they serve the interests of women? Would customers be happy to know what happens beyond the teller’s counter?

The institutions included in this analysis were chosen based on their rankings on the 2013 Fortune 500. In researching the data for Buy Up Index, we evaluated the top financial institutions on how they serve women as employees, as emerging leaders, and as consumers, and then identified where they have room to improve.


Overall, the retail banking industry does well by women compared to other sectors we’ve researched. Four banks on our list merit an A grade.


In recent years, the banking industry has certainly opened its doors. Bank of America, for instance, boasts a workforce that is more than 60 percent women, and it’s rare to find a boardroom composed entirely of men.

So how are female employees at retail banks currently faring? Some are doing well, and others are not. All the banks we researched had women on their board. Three banks made the 30 percent club: Bank of America, PNC, and Wells Fargo.

While many women make it into the management ranks, the numbers of those who climb higher is much smaller. There isn’t one female CEO of a major bank on this list, only smaller banks like Key Corp. Only 28 percent of these banks had women among the five highest paid executives (as reported by the SEC). JP Morgan Chase outdid the others, with 40 percent of its top execs being female. Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and PNC have over 50 percent managers.

Some financial institutions are even investing in supporting and retaining a new generation of women through leadership initiatives. JP Morgan Chase launched Winning Women to recruit students and its Women on the Move program has connected 6,000 employees to senior women at the bank. B of A’s network LEAD has 30,000 members, and Citigroup developed Women Leading Citi and Women’s Leadership Development; the former has sent 500 to a program at UCLA. These programs demonstrate a commitment to mentoring women and helping them attain the highest positions within these respective institutions at a rate on par with their male counterparts. BNY Mellon has involved 5,500 women in over 50 chapters in its Women’s Initiative Network. Citi and BNY Mellon actually track the percentage of women in these programs who climb the ladder.

Looking at these numbers begs the question: why are the strides made by women into middle management positions not matched in executive offices? Could it be that inadequate paid maternity and paternity leave policies are continuing to force women to choose between home and the office? Does going on maternity leave result in missed opportunities for advancement? Does the glass ceiling only exist on the executive floors? Are efforts to empower female employees no more than another form of pink-washing?


How women employees experience life at the bank varies greatly when it comes to family issues. Four of these banks offer maternity leave over 12 weeks – far from the tech sector’s record-breaking 22 weeks or unlimited.

Only four of the banks change the face-time model. At PNC, 50 percent of employees telework, compress week, or job-share. Bank of America goes further by registering My Work®, its formal plan allowing people to work from a variety of corporate locations or wherever they are most productive. Instead of making employees ask, B of A formalized the concept of Select Time to reduce an employee's schedule and responsibilities for a specific period.

Some go out of their way for parents: PNC offers onsite childcare at two of its offices. Wells Fargo offers backup childcare.

JP Morgan Chase created an innovative re-entry program to help women those who left the work force ramp back into banking.


Beyond employees, we wanted to ask how the banks are serving their women customers. A few are reaching out for the wallets of women by trying to increase women’s financial well-being. PNC trains bankers in the needs of women business owners – a smart move considering there are eight million of them. Wells Fargo has made a goal of lending $55 billion to women-owned businesses; the tally is $43 billion so far.

When it comes to communicating to their customers, banks are also doing a pretty good job showing today's new reality. Many scored a PASS for their marketing efforts--meaning that they subverted gender stereotypes. That seems logical, as banks are persuading people to trust them with their money, it's best to show these earners as capable human beings. Indeed, many bank advertisements feature women business owners, after all nearly 10 million women do own their own companies. Bank of America stands out for ads that show a girl hockey players or middle-aged African-American women in rock bands.

What do banks do with their money? All these banks pull profits in by the billions, and most make charitable and philanthropic contributions. Giving USA recommends that companies direct 1 percent of pre-tax profits to philanthropy, and while most of the banks donate, there isn’t a lot of money going toward specifically women’s causes. The exception: Bank of America stands out for the $10 million it has directed to Elizabeth Street Capital, along with the Tory Burch Foundation and its impressive document to help evaluate philanthropy for women and girls. B of A put another $10 million toward the work of the Calvert Foundation.

Detergent with a Powerful Active Ingredient--Philanthropy

Sure, you want your clothes to come out clean--and most laundry detergents do that. Yet what does your favorite brand to to make the outside world better? Equality Ethel has found a washing powder that does something besides stain removal.