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.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."