Thought Leadership

International Women’s Day demands deeds not words

In the second part of our series industry leaders ask if 2024 will be the year of communication through demonstration

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


Advertising trailblazer and entrepreneur Cindy Gallop has a powerful life philosophy: ‘Communication through demonstration’. You don’t talk about the changes industries should make, you get busy doing it yourself, demonstrating in your actions and impact the importance and power of those changes.

It is a philosophy that is a powerful lens to view equality. For if we were to measure the rate of progress in column inches, rather than in the number of years the IMF predicts it will take to close the gender pay gap (132) then the pace of change might feel less glacial. Yet while talk is cheap, the cost of the gender pay gap is not.

Research by recruitment company Major Players found that women earned £9,618 less than men on average in the creative industries. Research from Wacl (Women in Communications London) underlines that it will take until 2060 for women to hold 50% of chief executive positions in the industry at the current rate of change.

With that action gap in mind, we asked industry leaders if  International Women’s Day 2024 will be the year in which brands embrace communication through demonstration.

Linn Frost

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The Social Element

Brands talk a big game around inclusion but words are nothing without action. In order to be truly inclusive, brands need to demonstrate their efforts holistically. The issues women face are endemic to society and the way businesses function - there needs to be just as much action inside as there is outside.

Brands must use their channels of communication to showcase their efforts in a genuine, authentic way. It’s not about showing that women work within your business but instead lifting the lid on activities, policies, and creative ideas that are shifting the dial for women’s issues to allow them to thrive. This can then inform how brands create external impact through the messages and products that serve more than the bottom line.

Social media is a great way to do this. It is a space where brands can be human and connect on the issues that matter to their customers. No other channel allows you to tap into culture, mood and attitudes in the same way. Brands should use this to their advantage to understand how they are perceived on women’s issues and engage in the conversations that allow them to prove their action.

Sophie Nicholson

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The Romans

The best way for brands to really make a stand for women’s equity is to have them in the room when decisions are being made about how women are included, represented and supported at work.

Not just for the obligatory IWD LinkedIn post or stunt – but every day. That’s action. That’s demonstration. That gives brands the authentic starting point.

We’ve all sat in meetings with well-intentioned folks discussing what we can say and how we should say it, in the run up to IWD. But without action and effort – the truth is, saying something is just adding to noise that effectively hides the real issues.

So my hope for this year is, instead of brands spending their budgets trying to be part of a conversation, that they instead focus on hiring brilliant women and including them in their creativity; investing in initiatives led by women that level the playing field; and recognizing and celebrating women’s contributions and achievements every day.

Becky Wixon

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Creative Strategist

MassiveMusic & Songtradr

It takes work to find female composers for briefs. Work we strive to do, work not everyone prioritises. Work that should be prioritised. Because choosing diverse composers, musicians and artists in your communications is one of the more powerful ways you can demonstrate your brand’s commitment to diversity. Music, after all, is the universal language of emotion.

The industry needs to bring greater humanity into the sourcing of music, ensuring greater inclusivity of artists. Then brands can become stewards of the creative community and help ensure a more inclusive future for the next generation of creators. Because inclusion in music is everyone’s issue.

We are setting an ambition for the percentage of female composers we use in our briefs which we’ll be sharing in the next few months. This will help us build rosters of female talent that our whole Songtradr ecosystem has access to. We're committed to making change happen across the industry and encouraging other businesses to do the same. So, in terms of communication through demonstration, keep an ear out - it’s coming!

Linda Murphy

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Chief Growth Officer


International Women’s Day shouldn’t be just another notch in every brand’s annual strategy belt - and yet come March we’ll inevitably hear a symphony of industry noise about equality, with very little action to back it up.

Instead of pursuing awards and recognition for one-off campaigns that pull on gendered heart-strings; Brands need to focus budgets on initiatives that genuinely empower and enable women to know their worth 365 days a year.

I was very fortunate to grow up without a sense of feeling disadvantaged by my gender - an incredible byproduct of being surrounded by fierce women that role model strength and self assurance in everything they did.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to these invaluable communities and systems that proactively cultivate equality.

But if brands can make an authentic contribution here, and forgo the lure of award glory: that is true demonstration.

Felicity Dudley

Felicity Dudley, Marketing Director, EMEA at DoubleVerify.jpeg

Marketing Director, EMEA


Now more than ever, it is imperative for brands to prioritise internal initiatives before putting out content in celebration of International Women's Day. Brands should look inwards to assess their gender pay gap, demonstrate active support for causes championing women's rights and gender equity, proactively strive for balanced recruitment across genders and intersectionality, and take steps in supporting working parents and offering competitive parental leave packages.

In today's world, people are really paying attention – whether they're customers or employees. We  have heightened access and transparency regarding companies' internal policies, therefore, it is crucial for brands to focus on genuine efforts and tangible improvements before engaging in outward communication on International Women's Day in 2024.

Ellie Roberts

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Client Development Director

Wake the Bear

Does history teach us anything? If we look at the way brands jump on the IWD bandwagon the answer to this question is a resounding NO.

Brands have not yet worked out that it’s simply not enough to buy pink cupcakes for their female employees, put up a suitable picture on social channels and say job done. No brand should be communicating an IWD message unless the business is convinced it is doing everything possible to support women in every area of its organisation. ‘Everything’ means initiatives which improve the lives and experiences of women from management to supply chain and all areas in between.

Some brands may not yet have achieved the initiatives that are in place and perhaps IWD is a moment to take stock, commit to the challenges and communicate where your business is on its journey to equality. We can’t all afford to feature Octavia Spencer in our comms but learn from Apple’s Mother Nature campaign: brands can show how far they’ve come, where they are, where they want to get to and how they’ll get there.

On 8th March, I’d like to be surprised but I fully expect to see the usual back-slapping posts and thousands of pictures of pink cupcakes. So to keep things interesting don’t forget to check out the Gender Pay Gap Bot (@paygapapp) which pledges to publish the pay gap of any business celebrating IWD on social media…

Grace Hart

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Head of People Operations

Forsman & Bodenfors

Every International Women’s Day, brands worldwide proclaim their dedication to gender equality, fair pay, and female leadership. But what does it truly mean if these declarations lack genuine commitment and transparent action? As one of the world’s leading creative agencies, Forsman & Bodenfors understands the power of authentic representation in an industry that has such influence through global brands. Our values extend beyond rhetoric; they permeate every facet of our operation, defining how we collaborate, empower our teams, and shape cultural narratives. Across our Forsman collective, we believe in action over assertion. Over the past two years, we have invested significantly in achieving global gender pay equity. We recognize that true gender equity isn't just about words; it's about tangible measures that ensure fairness and transparency in compensation. That's why we have partnered with Fair Pay Workplace, supported by Syndio, to conduct rigorous annual audits of our pay practices. Fair Pay Workplace sets the gold standard for assessing pay equity, utilizing robust methodologies and best practices. By adhering to their Rules & Standards, we ensure that our commitment to pay equity is not just a hollow promise, but a measurable reality. As we approach International Women’s Day 2024, our challenge to fellow brands would be to move beyond simply endorsing the values our people believe in and rather embrace meaningful action. Let this be the year where communication through demonstration becomes the norm, and where the pursuit of genuine gender equity transcends mere words.

Larissa Vince

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I hope so. But I do rather fear that my feed tomorrow will be full of the usual deluge of content from organisations that I never normally hear a peep from on gender equality. But of course, the truth is that if you only do something to support a cause on a single day per year, then you shouldn’t be doing it.

I do have more hope for the future. Many brands are taking the younger generations seriously, because they have identified this group as a future source of commercial growth.

And this generation, more than any other, expect to see action from brands, not just words. A recent Ernst & Young study, for example, found that 92% of Gen Z-ers value authenticity above all other brand values.

It’s sad to say but the reality is that if genuine action around causes like gender equality starts to drive better business results, we might finally start to see brands embracing that change.

And in light of that, IWD presents a pivotal opportunity for brands to not only communicate their commitment to gender equality through demonstration, but also to help attract younger generations to choose them. 

Rebecca Winch

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Managing Director

Way to Blue

I doubt it. It’s naive to think there will be real change overnight and the fact this question is being asked suggests there’s an acknowledgement it hasn’t happened so far. I feel like we've been talking about this issue for 15 years+, but have we seen any real change? IWD is at risk of becoming one of those annual events that comes and goes and brands acknowledge it as a box ticking exercise but nothing more.

What it needs is major brands taking major action in order to elevate the conversation - they have to lead by example. And I don’t mean social posts, equity in advertising creative, a short line of IWD products, I mean putting women in senior positions in their business (and not just in HR and marketing roles) - actions that prove they believe in the abilities and value of women in business.

Pay your women the same as men, appoint a female chairman, make your board equally male to female. Goodness, maybe even have more women than men. Demonstrate that women are a good thing for your business and that you genuinely support and respect women by putting your money where your mouth is.

We have to hope we’re making steps forward but I doubt we will really change until the people who are 30 and under now are in decision making positions of power. Change will come about generationally when the old boys who are ruling the roost have retired and fresh, modern attitudes are the norm.

To hear from more industry leaders on the significance of International Women’s Day 2024, read part one here.

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