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.
It's the question on everyone's tongues. It's what motivates every conversation about whether or not Liz Warren is "electable," every bit of hand-wringing that a woman just "can't win this year," and every joke about menstrual cycles and nuclear missiles. Is America ready for a woman president?
It's a question that would be laughable if it wasn't indicative of deeper problems and wielded like a weapon against our ambitions. Whether thinly-veiled misogyny or not (I'm not going to issue a blanket condemnation of everybody who's ever asked), it certainly has the same effect: to tell us "someday, but not yet." It's cold comfort when "someday" never seems to come.
What are the arguments? That a woman can't win? That the country would reject her authority? That the troops would refuse to take her orders? That congress would neuter the office? Just the other day, The New York Times ran yet another in a long series of op-eds from every major newspaper in America addressing this question. However, this one made a fascinating point, referencing yet another article on the topic in The Atlantic (examining the question during Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid), which cited a study by two Yale researchers who found that people were either the same or more likely to vote for a fictional male senator when told that he was ambitious; and yet, both men and women alike were less likely to vote for a woman when told that she was ambitious, even reacting with "feelings of moral outrage" including "contempt, anger, and disgust."
The question isn't whether a woman could be president, or whether a woman can be elected president – let's not forget that Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than the wildly unqualified man currently sitting in the oval office – it's whether or not it's appropriate for a woman to run for president, in a pre-conscious, visceral, gut-check way. In short, it's about misogyny. Not your neighbors' misogyny, that oft-cited imaginary scapegoat, but yours. Ours. Mine. The misogyny we've got embedded deeply in our brains from living in a society that doesn't value women, the overcoming of which is key for our own growth, well-being, and emotional health.
Why didn't we ever ask if America was ready for Trump?
That misogyny, too, is reinforced by every question asking people to validate a woman even seeking the position. Upfront, eo ipso, before considering anything of their merit or experience or thought, whether a woman should be president, that, if given the choice between a qualified woman and an unqualified man, the man wins (which, let's not forget, is what happened four years ago). To ask the question at all is to recognize the legitimacy of the difference in opinion, that this is a question about which reasonable people might disagree. In reality, it's a question that reason doesn't factor into at all. It's an emotional question provoking an emotional response: to whom belong the levers of power? It's also one we seem eager to dodge.
"Sure, I'd vote for a woman, but I don't think my neighbor would. I'd vote for a woman, but will South Carolina? Or Nebraska? Or the Dakotas?" At worst, it's a way to sort through the cognitive dissonance the question provokes in us – it's an obviously remarkable idea, seeing as we've never had a woman president – and at best, it's sincere surrender to our lesser angels, allowing misogyny to win by default. It starts with the assumption that a woman can't be president, and therefore we shouldn't nominate one, because she can't win. It's a utilitarian argument for excluding half of the country's population from eligibility for its highest office not even by virtue of some essential deficiency, but in submission to the will of a presumed minority of voters before a single vote has ever been cast. I don't know what else to call that but misogyny by other means.
We can, and must, do better than that. We can't call a woman's viability into question solely because she's a woman. To do so isn't to "think strategically," but to give ground before the race even starts. It's to hobble a candidate. It's to make sure voters see her, first and foremost, as a gendered object instead of a potential leader. I have immense respect for the refusal of women like Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and pioneers like Carol Mosley-Braun, going as far back as Victoria Woodhull, to accede to this narrative and stick to their arguments over the course of their respective campaigns, regardless of any policy differences with them. It's by women standing up and forcing the world to see us as people that we push through, not by letting them tell us where they think we belong.
One of the themes I come back to over and over again in my writing is women asserting independence from control and dignity in our lives. It's the dominant note in feminist writing going back decades, that plea for recognition not only of our political and civil rights, but our existence as moral agents as capable as any man in the same position, as deserving of respect, as deserving of being heard and taking our shot. What then do we make of the question "is America ready for a woman president?" Is America ready? Perhaps not. But perhaps "ready" isn't something that exists. Perhaps, in the truest fashion of human politics, it's impossible until it, suddenly, isn't, and thereafter seems inevitable.
I think, for example, of the powerful witness Barack Obama brought to the office of president, not simply by occupying it but by trying to be a voice speaking to America's cruel and racist history and its ongoing effects. By extension, then, I think there is very real, radical benefit to electing a chief executive who has herself been subject to patriarchal control in the way only women (and those who others identify as women) can experience.
I look at reproductive rights like abortion and birth control, and that is what I see: patriarchal control over bodies, something no single president has ever experienced. I think about wage equality; no US president has ever been penalized for their sex in their ability to provide for themselves and their families. I look at climate change, and I remember that wealth and power are inextricably bound to privilege, and that the rapacious hunger to extract value from the earth maps onto the exploitation women have been subject to for millennia.
That's the challenge of our day. We've watched, over the last decade, the radicalized right go from the fringes of ridicule to the halls of power. We've watched them spit at the truth and invent their own reality. All while some of our best leaders were told to wait their turn. Why, then, all this question of whether we're ready for something far simpler?
Why didn't we ever ask if America was ready for Trump?