Activating Purpose to Drive Real Change

By Stacy Verner in Guest Blogger
June 16, 2016 04:00

As I head to the Cannes Lions Festival, where in/PACT will celebrate the Glass Lion & the brands who support gender equality, I cannot help but reflect on the true impact we can have on societal change --  as companies, leaders , women and men.

I’ve had the unique experience of working in primarily male-dominated industries where I was often one of the few female senior executives. As such, I’ve experienced both the progress and the lack thereof first hand. Yet, countless studies have proven the extent to which gender diversity is good for the bottom line. Gallup did a study a few years back showing that companies with diverse and engaged workforces have a 46% higher increase in comparable revenue than their less diverse counterparts.

Brands like Dove & Always have embraced this critical issue at the heart of their organizations — and have been deservedly recognized for their work in Cannes. With campaigns like ‘Real Beauty’ and ‘Like a Girl’, these brands are raising awareness across both gender and generational lines. And they are not the only ones -- companies such as Coca Cola with their 5by20 program and Gap with their P.A.C.E program, have implemented initiatives in support of their diverse workforces & stakeholders.

So with these Fortune 500s fighting the good fight, one might ask how much impact has been made so far? And what strategies have worked best?

According to Pew Research, since 1995 we have…

  • Narrowed the average wage gap from 28% to 20%.
  • Increased the number of women CEOs to 5%.
  • Elected 2x as many women to political office.

Meaningful progress, no doubt — but there is still so much left to be done. And the reality is that while many companies are working hard to change this dynamic, consumers have not yet been actively engaged to support the push for change to the slowly evolving gender status quo.

As the CMO of in/PACT, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of consumers about causes like gender equality and the brands that support them. It never ceases to surprise me when I hear how many people are unaware of the amazing programs that brands sponsor today. In fact, in a recent study of students at the Hult business school, I found that while every student has donated personally in the past 12 months, not a single one knew of a brand that supports their favorite cause.

As brand marketers, we have the important responsibility to not just ask, but share, to not just say, but do.

Solving issues like gender equality means convening people around the world. Companies of all sizes need to come together and rally around this shared purpose. It takes not just broadcasting that you support the cause, but activating that purpose by both driving awareness and launching programs that invite all your stakeholders (including your customers) to participate.

It also takes the most senior leaders, of which 95% are still men, to actively play a role in this paradigm shift. That is why initiatives like are so important in this world. It is the same reason why together with MediaLink and the Girls Lounge we are encouraging men to join the conversation around Purpose & Gender Equality in Cannes. It will be during this event that I will have the honor to sit side by side with some of the most incredible CMOs supporting gender equality today to discuss activating purpose.

But most importantly, this is about the next generation of female leaders -- like my 6 year old daughter who, when she saw the wrist band we will be handing out in support of gender equality in Cannes, asked the simple question, "Mommy, what does gender equality mean?"

To answer, I showed her the video below from MullenLowe London, showing girls her age already making assumptions around which genders would most likely be surgeons, fire-fighters or air force pilots. I’d encourage everyone to watch this moving, and very real wake-up call on gender stereotypes.


Then I said to my daughter, “you see, gender equality means that you can accomplish anything you set your heart and mind to, regardless of if you are a boy or a girl.”

That was my answer. What’s yours?

This guest blog post was written by Michelle Denogean, CMO of in/PACT.