International Women’s Day is upon us once again! It seems like only yesterday that I was setting up this blog to discuss some of my experiences as a woman in tech, but here we are again.
I thought I’d take a moment this year to instead recognise some of the winners and losers of International Women’s Day this year, and yes, there are very definitely winners and losers. The day wasn’t always about the marketing opportunity – it’s supposed to be about celebrating the achievements of women, about celebrating the social, political, cultural, global impact that women have, about recognising the barriers that women face and what we can do to dismantle them, etc. Over time, however, the day has become heavily commercialised, and is now treated largely as an opportunity by many companies to post a slogan or a hashtag without any real effort to shift the conditions for the women who work for their companies.
Gold Star Winner
The undeniable Winner of IWD 2022 is the Twitter Gender Pay Gap Bot. This clever little bot, created by Francesa Lawson and Ali Fensome, uses data sourced from the UK Govt’s database on gender pay gap, which all companies with more than 250 employees are obliged to submit data to. When those companies tweeted using the IWD hashtag, the bot retweeted their tweets quoting the median hourly pay gap percentage. Watching the posts roll in all day was a delightful source of merry chaos, and an occasional source of delight when you see some companies which had genuine pay equality!
Many companies, upon seeing themselves retweeted by the bot, chose the scorched earth policy of blocking the bot or deleting their message and retweeting it without the associated hashtag. This, predictably, didn’t work, and usually just served to draw more attention to their particular case. A related honourable mention must, therefore, go to Madeline Odent and her wonderful curated thread of all the companies who deleted/blocked/modified their posts in an attempt to evade the bot, thereby ultimately making an even bigger mess for themselves. I salute you for your hours of tireless work Madeline!
Honorable Mention (Silver Boot)
The Welsh Rugby Union used IWD to announce a suite of new initiatives such as providing free menstrual products, pelvic floor training, a partnership with a menstruation underwear brand, not to mention highlighting their awarding of full time professional contracts (in case you missed it at the start of the year).
Jen, why are you talking about Wales Rugby, you might ask? Well, it’s just that some other rugby teams have been getting it fairly spectacularly wrong lately. Like the IRFU with regard to our own women’s rugby team just last week. And this year’s Golden Facepalm Winner……
Golden Facepalm – The All Blacks
In a world where the Black Ferns exist, and they have won five of the past six Women’s Rugby World Cup’s, where you had the option to retweet the message they shared for IWD and extend the reach of their twitter account with a simple “we support you” or “we support this” note, or even a black heart emoji, or just a plain retweet without comment, the All Blacks chose to post this instead.
It’s actually still up there as of writing, on March 9th, despite almost an universally negative response. Why so negative? Let me count the ways.
This message is centred in the perspective of what women do for men, rather than what they may do for themselves, or how they may exist for themselves. It has the same structure, and same failing, as the “she’s someone’s wife/mother/daughter” trope. She is someone all by herself, not merely in relation to the service she can provide to a man or the relation she is to a man. It casts women as the enablers or in support roles to men, and on International Women’s Day, it’s just not the day. “Congrats women for being so good at supporting the men in being brilliant” is a message that wouldn’t be great on most days really but for it to be your key marketing message on International Women’s Day is a spectacularly poor choice.
“Allow” is also a poor choice of word here because it does have echoes of the “allowed out to play” attitude that we see reflected so often in mainstream media too, which is infantilising for men and insulting for women, so it’s doubly awful. While I understand that sometimes word choice in a tweet is also dictated by space, and I’d usually grant that this may have been a space related choice, I did check and you could have replaced the word “allow” with the whole phrase “support us in playing” and it would still have been under the word count so 🙅♀️.
Lastly, I’ll mention the same thing which has been said in response to the tweet online, which is that the particular players chosen in some of these images are poor role models at the best of times, and especially poor role models for a day which is meant to honour and respect women. Players who have had domestic violence charges laid against them should not appear as part of promotional content for International Women’s Day twitter posts and that feels like such a basic rule that it is unbelievable that I should even have to type it, akin to “you should put on a coat if it is raining outside” or “look both ways before crossing the street”.
They have weakly apologised for “not getting it right”, but not on the All Blacks twitter account, where the majority of their twitter followers actually are and where that post still remains(?!), but on their @NZRugby account, where they *checks notes* almost never tweet from (1217 tweets total at time of writing), and which has even fewer followers than the Black Ferns account which they still have chosen not to try and promote from the All Blacks account, so I guess some people might call that a little… insincere?
Silver (?) Facepalm
I’ve chosen to give this a Silver Facepalm because, like international brands everywhere considering their promotional material for IWD, I take the sanctity of these awards very seriously, and I couldn’t have two Gold Facepalms on the inaugural year of the awards as I felt it would make a mockery of the whole system. In iVisit London’s defence, I suppose they were just reposting copy given to them by the London Dungeon, so it’s really a shared award by both of them, so it’s a double Silver Facepalm.
Again, in the category of “sentences and rules I didn’t think I’d be needing to clarify”, making a funny fun time joke about a notorious murderer of women and calling her Jackie *wowsparkle* is very much not quality copy for a day that is supposed to be about celebrating women. Maybe don’t try to yassify murderers for International Women’s Day? Maybe that’s not the vibe? Maybe if all today is to you is an opportunity to tweet some twee nonsense with a hashtag then you should just step away from your “murderous females” pinterest board and, just, take a personal day.
And, I guess, it almost feels twee to say it myself but go with me here – you couldn’t have even on this, the day of international women, found a single female figure to advertise the London Dungeon? Leaving aside the fact that I think it is grotesque to use murder as a cutesy way to advertise yourself, even on this day you felt that the single well known male serial killer needed to be front and centre in your ad copy? Zero stars.
The post has since been deleted and iVisit London have said they just shared ad copy from the London Dungeon and they shouldn’t have, it wasn’t up to their standards, etc. A fairly bland, standard apology. The London Dungeon said they wanted to give an opportunity to show a theory that Jack the Ripper could have been female but given that they’re replacing their usual actor for “one day and one day only” but this one day could have been any day, and there’s no reason for it to be one day only. A terrible marketing misstep on a day that should be about anything but marketing.
What did you see yesterday?
That’s what I saw in my corner of the internet yesterday. Did you see a particularly well thought out initiative that you’d like to share? Or a particularly egregious flop? I’d love to hear about it.