International Women's Day is a chance for brands to show what they're doing to promote equality — and arguably raise their profiles and sell more too.
CNBC takes a look at what some businesses are doing to mark the occasion Sunday, from Betty Crocker's response to an eight year-old boy who realized its cake instructions were aimed at women, to Absolut's campaign around sexual consent.
"We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much," goes the soundtrack to Apple's "Behind the Mac" ad on YouTube, released Tuesday.
It's a compilation of pictures of women, including campaigner Malala Yousafzai, soccer star Megan Rapinoe and #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke. They're shown working on Macs, and the song uses words from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDx talk, "We Should All Be Feminists," which was sampled by Beyonce in her song "Flawless." The company is also running events in-store highlighting women creatives.
Despite some moves forward for women in the Middle East, packs of Betty Crocker cake mix still used stereotypes, addressing only women in their instructions. That changed when eight-year-old Sultan, living in Ras al Khaimah, tweeted Betty Crocker to ask: "Why do your baking instructions only speak to women?" The General Mills-owned brand updated the Arabic instructions on more than 100 products to gender-neutral nouns and verbs and launched its "The Kitchen is for Everyone" ad campaign, by agency VMLY&R, on Tuesday, which will run on social media in the region.
Words create stereotypes, and adjectives like "cold," "pushy," and "aggressive," are labels that are often used to describe women in the workplace, whereas "assertive" might be used instead of "aggressive" for a man exhibiting similar behavior, according to non-profit Catalyst. It is seeking to tackle unconscious bias with a software plug-in for Slack that suggests alternative adjectives, and is also encouraging men and women to tweet pictures of themselves with words that have been used to describe them.
The Swedish alcohol brand launched a campaign called "Drink Responsibly. #SexResponsibly," on Valentine's Day with ads stating: "Buying someone a drink doesn't buy you a yes," and it aims to continue the conversation ahead of International Women's Day. It is working with influencers to share stories on social media tagged #StillNotAYes and is running an event on March 12 where actress and producer Olivia Wilde and others will discuss consent. It has launched the campaign with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
When tour company Intrepid Travel realized that most of its trip leaders were men, it sought to equalize the imbalance, noting that 65% of its customers are female. Zina Bencheikh, general manager of Intrepid Travel's Morocco office, successfully lobbied for the country to license more female tour guides and this week the business launched women-only tours to Pakistan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. It plans to report on its progress towards equality by 2022.
Time magazine was "created by men for 'busy men,'" and it named its annual "Man of the Year" in 1927, only changing it to "Person of the Year," in 1999, according to its executive editor, Kelly Conniff. Now, Procter & Gamble is backing Time's release of 100 influential "Women of the Year" profiles, including the likes of campaigner Greta Thunberg, author Toni Morrison and chemist Rosalind Franklin, and has sponsored a documentary on how the women were selected. P&G brands that will advertise in the printed issue include Pampers, Olay and SKII.
Kind held around 10% of the U.S. market share for snack bars in 2019, according to Euromonitor, and this year it has decided to get political for International Women's Day. It is running a petition to campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to go ahead — a change to the constitution that was proposed in 1972 and is now back before Congress. It will also donate profits from its limited-edition "Equality" bar to the Alice Paul Institute, which is campaigning for the ERA to be ratified. Bars can be bought via its website, where it sells multi-boxes and subscriptions.
"It's a Man's World" might seem like a counter-intuitive name for a women's product range, but Reebok did just that when it launched a collection designed by women, with the phrase crossed out on its footwear. Reebok, owned by Adidas, just dropped its 2020 "It's a Man's World" collection ahead of International Women's Day.
Anti-poverty non-profit Care has created a public service announcement-style ad featuring "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes and its stars, Kerry Washington, Bellamy Young and Katie Lowes, describe the ways in which women are marginalized. The aim is to have people sign a petition to support the Safe From The Start Act, legislation that would require U.S. humanitarian programs overseas to prioritize the needs of women and girls.