Whether you're a man, woman, black, white, asian, gay, straight, transgender, disabled, unusual - you have probably experienced varying levels of discrimination throughout your life, and more specifically, in the workplace.
Needless to say, there are some jobs, some industries out there that just aren't inclusive - whether it's their hiring standards, product development, or their advertizing, many people can find themselves alienated by certain brands because of who their target audience is and consequently who their target workforce is. It's natural in life to feel left out - to know a product isn't meant or designed for you, but to feel aggrieved nonetheless.
However, there are also those times when brands, or indeed entire industries have made egregious errors in judgement by excluding, deluding or discriminating against specific sections of the society. These companies below represent a core group that are focused on diversity and inclusion across the board and have gone out of their way to make sure nobody is left behind.
Target's multicultural business empire and attitude is widely recognized and easily recognized in every one of its stores. Diversity Inc had Target positioned at number 22 on its top 50 most diverse firms for reasons such as its willingness to promote Latinos at a much higher level than even those in the top 10 rankings. In terms of product - Target has never shied away from stocking brands that also celebrate and highlight diversity. It's a retailer that has consistently - through advertisements, merchandising and employment, continues to prove its ability to diversify.
Their hiring pledge is one you don't see on many company websites, and consequently, one worth mentioning:
“We believe diversity and inclusivity make teams and Target better. And we'll live that belief as champions of a more inclusive society by creating a diverse and inclusive work environment, cultivating an inclusive guest experience, and fostering equality in society." - Target
Product development and innovation have run Nike for the past fifty years. Having branded themselves the frontrunners in new sports' produce and discoveries, with the latest addition to their lines, they are certainly surpassing expectations.
This week saw the release of test shots for their new 'Pro Hijab' for Muslim women - a contentious and hotly-anticipated product, but one that Nike drove relentlessly to get into production. Brand ambassadors for the Hijab include figure skater Zahra Lari and triathlete Manal Rostom. The product comes after an explosion of spending in the Middle-East caused a shift in marketing strategies and advertisement spending by international brands.
The wealth of the region can no longer be ignored and neither can the consumer base. The 'Pro Hijab' is the first of many products I would imagine that will target this specific area for its wealth of resources and diverse culture.
Starbucks CEO caused ructions in the wake of Trump's immigration enforcement on Muslim- majority countries, after he pledged to hire '10,000 refugees' to the dismay and furore of much of the president's supporters. The announcement that came on January 29th aims to extend a hadn't to those displaced throughout the world in Starbucks locations from all 75 countries they operate in.
The pledge, and its meaning however are not revolutionary within the company. Starbucks hiring policies are perhaps some of the most inclusive and broad in the U.S. They continue to strive to hire as many veterans as they can, while also having a stellar reputation for hiring those with disabilities.
Executives from the company were also among those last year who came out vociferously against a radical anti-LGBTQ bill in North Carolina.
Lush received a huge wave of support in recent weeks for their Valentines Day ad-campaign which featured two gay couples taking bubble baths. The normalization and ease with which the couples mesh into the ad is perhaps the reason its garnered so very much support. LGBTQ communities have been angered previously by 'token' inclusion of the LGBTQ community in ads. However, the couples featured in the Valentines campaign are not only integral to the reel but made up some of the funnest and most wholesome moments, and refute any 'tokenistic' sentiment.
Photo: Lush Cosmetics
The iconic brand hired its first 'Coverboy' at the end of last year when James Charles, make-up artist extraordinaire headlined their lash equality campaign.
It wasn't just Charles however who caused a bit of a rouse in the campaign. A model wearing a hijab is also featured - highlighting again the need for further Muslim representation in ads like these. For too long the growing chunk of the beauty market being consumed by Muslim women and women in the middle-east as a whole has been ignored and its only in recent months that we are beginning to see western advertizing move on this front.
Ben & Jerry's
It's only in the last few years that social media has become a marketing force to be reckoned with, contending heavily with TV advertisements and direct marketing. Building a brand now relies on what you're tweeting, who you're retweeting, what your Instagram looks like and if your Facebook is allowed to remain idle for more than a week.
The Black Lives Matter Campaign was left very much out in the wind by brands across the board, whether it was to remain apolitical or because it was they were too lazy, very, very few brands get involved and needless to say it didn't go unnoticed.
Black Lives Matter. Choosing to be silent in the face of such injustice is not an option. https://t.co/6Vy0KHJeKU #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/pK96teLRhd
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) October 6, 2016
The eponymous ice-cream giant Ben & Jerry's however refused to remain silent and tweeted about the lack of response from their fellow retailers. The politically active brand does not typically shy away from controversial social issues.
The tweet resounded heavily with a community that felt particularly aggrieved by the lack of movement from brands who are quick to get involved in other political movements - take for example the huge response from those that are currently dropping Ivanka Trump's clothing lines. Had the Black Lives Matter movement received as much attention as the #grabyourwallet campaign perhaps we'd be looking at a different political climate currently. For the most part part unfortunately it remained in the back seat in relation to other perhaps less important issues.
Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl
There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.
So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.
I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.
For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.
Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.
Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.
"My Lifelong Partner"
Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."
While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.
This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.
In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.
Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.
The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.
Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.
So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.
Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.
Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.
Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.
Being powerful is a big responsibility.
To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.
While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.
© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019