International Women’s Day finds a new spin for 2024

It’s easy to bitch about International Women’s Day. It’s been hijacked by commercialism and is now just another date on the corporate comms calendar that’s about noise, not activism.

Helen Mirren has been reduced to saying that she counts a new (one-off) Barbie doppelganger as an achievement that ranks with an Oscar and a Damehood. And the ASA has put out special guidelines to help business “avoid harmful or offensive stereotypes” at this difficult time of year for advertisers.

But in 2024, it seems like the focus has shifted in a positive way towards celebrating women in business and encouraging investment at a grass roots level. John Lewis is leading the way with a “John Lewis & Sisters” campaign inviting designers, producers and women-led brands to pitch their products with an eye to being stocked at Christmas.

Saatchi & Saatchi has also created a colourful campaign that celebrates the women who have shaped John Lewis for the last 160 years, including make up entrepreneur Charlotte Tilbury, artist Barbara Hepworth – and Mrs John Lewis.

Liverpool FC is also in on the act with a campaign in collaboration with VIstaPrint that features players learning how to make Italian pasta from scratch at a local female-run business. Shame that it’s only the women players in the kitchen.

It’s a busy time of year what with World Book Day, International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day in the same week. Who can blame retailers for using these golden opportunities to flog flowers, food, clothes and books?

Sweaty Betty – another female found business – has taken the moment to launch what it calls a “bold new visual identity” that could only be distinguished from the previous iteration by an expert. The campaign is full of Instagram wisdom, giving women permission to “feel great” instead of “look great”, “be yourself” instead of “transform yourself” and “do you” rather than “be that girl.”

There’s always the @PayGapApp bot to keep it real. It detects self-satisfied #IWD social media posts and reposts them with statistics on the company’s pay gap. Interesting to see that the Labour Party has achieved equal pay this year, having closed its 2023 gap of 4.1% just in time for the election.

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