In an era where corporate social responsibility and activism have become buzzwords, it's no surprise that brands and organisations are quick to jump on the bandwagon of supporting women's causes. However, while many of them engage in what is often referred to as "pinkwashing," their actions often fall far short of addressing the substantial issues that women face.
Pinkwashing, in essence, is when brands or organisations utilise token gestures, such as offering free coupons, drinks, or manicures during Women's Month or International Women's Day. While these may seem like well-intentioned efforts, they often serve as superficial distractions from more pressing concerns that women encounter daily.
The Pay Gap Persists
One of the most glaring issues that pinkwashing conveniently sidesteps is the persistent gender pay gap. Women continue to earn less than their male counterparts for the same work.
According to Forbes, in 2022, women earned on average 17% less than men. For every dollar men earned, women earned 82 cents. Even when comparing women and men with identical job titles, seniority levels, and work hours, there is still an 11% gender pay gap in terms of take-home pay.
Despite women constituting 47% of the labour force in 2018, their median earnings continue to significantly lag behind those of men. It's projected by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that we won't achieve gender pay equity until 2059.
While the issue has garnered attention, tangible action remains minimal. Companies that claim to support gender equality should be at the forefront of closing this gap. Offering a 20% discount for a day is not the solution, but a robust equal pay policy is.
Women's Safety is Non-Negotiable
Women's safety is a fundamental human right that should be upheld, respected, and protected by society as a whole. Unfortunately, despite the progress made in many parts of the world, women still face various forms of violence, harassment, and discrimination.
According to UN Women, on a global scale, approximately 736 million women, which is almost one in three women, have experienced physical violence at least once in their lifetime.
Meanwhile, in India, as reported by the National Crime Records Bureau, cases of crimes against women saw a 15.3% increase in 2021 compared to 2020. Furthermore, there were over 228,650 reported incidents of crimes against women in 2011, whereas in 2021, the number of reported incidents surged to 428,278, marking an 87% rise.
Pinkwashing campaigns often ignore the reality of gender-based violence. Organisations should commit to creating safe environments for women, whether it's in the workplace or beyond.
Instead of free drinks, companies should focus on creating anti-harassment policies, providing self-defence training, or supporting local initiatives that address the safety of women in their communities.
Abortion Rights and Women's Health
In most countries worldwide, women face legal or practical restrictions when it comes to their access to safe and lawful abortion. Even in cases where abortion is legally allowed, women frequently encounter substantial obstacles in obtaining safe abortion services due to inadequate regulation, healthcare facilities, or political support.
The right to choose is a fundamental aspect of women's health and reproductive rights. Pinkwashing typically shies away from the topic of abortion, even though access to safe and legal abortion is a critical issue for women. Brands and organisations need to advocate for policies that safeguard these rights, rather than simply offering fleeting discounts.
Supporting Women's Economic Empowerment
Real support for women's causes means facilitating economic empowerment. This goes beyond handing out free manicures. It involves offering equal opportunities, supporting women-owned businesses, and creating mentorship programs for aspiring female entrepreneurs. Promoting women's financial independence is a sustainable way to contribute to gender equality.
Equal Representation and Decision-Making
Gender diversity in decision-making roles remains a considerable challenge. Companies should prioritise recruiting, retaining, and promoting women at all levels, especially in leadership positions. Empty gestures like 'Ladies' Night' promotions are insignificant when true gender diversity is lacking in boardrooms.
In conclusion, while it's commendable that brands and organisations want to support women's causes, it's crucial that their efforts move beyond pinkwashing. Real activism involves addressing systemic issues and promoting tangible change, such as closing the gender pay gap, ensuring women's safety, advocating for reproductive rights, and supporting women's economic empowerment.
As consumers and advocates, we must demand more from brands and organisations, holding them accountable for genuine and substantial contributions to women's rights and equality. The days of settling for pink coupons and free drinks should be behind us, replaced by a commitment to make a lasting difference in the lives of women everywhere.
Views expressed by the author are their own.
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