Hey Business, It's Time for You to Step Up For Women

It's a depressing day to be a woman in America. When our country elects and inaugurates a man who is not only a sexual harasser but who suggests women seeking abortions be punished, women hear that we don't matter. When the Congress- in its very first week-- moves to defund a vital source of health care, Planned Parenthood (Don't they have better things to do?), we're pretty sure they don't give a damn about us. Same for when the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Service disputes the validity of women's need for affordable birth control, and wants to defund Planned Parenthood. And oh yes, when the actions of the nominee for EPA, Scott Pruitt, suggest our children should rather be poisoned by lead, mercury and other toxins than manage fossil fuel and chemical companies. I could go on.

Although Trump promised in his inaugural address that the people "will never be ignored again," the rights of America's women are being ignored. This entire election is like a slap in the face to women. How can we believe we matter when every instrument of public policy is ready to seize our fundamental rights?

It's clear that Government will have very little concern for the rights and wellbeing of women in these next four years, so I'm asking companies, advertisers, media conglomerates and everyone else who makes our products, programs our content and drives our eyeballs: what are you going to do?

Companies have led recently, defying government in the case of North Carolina's transgender laws or in providing generous family leave where government provides little. In message and in management, business can advance women. And you don't have to be a large company. Businesses can advance women in small ways, from reconsidering your supply chain to patronizing women owned companies in your community.

Lindy Huang Werges started her business, an executive recruiting firm focused on accounting and finance after years working for both large corporations and startups. It was important to her to control how her firm's dollars got spent and give back to her local community in a meaningful way. So she started a revenue driven small business, where "you can create a culture and keep it, whereas if you have outside financing you just have a lot less control over all these things."

"I really felt I could make a bigger difference if I had my own business. Philanthropy is a big part of me and I wasn't getting that in the larger companies. Now I can control where I my spending goes. We are a woman owned and minority owned business and we allot as much of our procurement spend to minority owned companies or women owned companies. Even if we're taking our clients out to lunch or dinner we really try to eat at local restaurants and not large chains."

In 2015 Huang Werges learned her company had spent 33% of its internal resources supporting community owned, minority owned businesses.

If you're in the business of creating content or marketing messages, which are so influential, you can also take seriously your role in advancing women's power and their voices. When Cindy Gallop pointed me in the direction of a brilliant article by Carrie Ingoglia, a Creative Director in New York, it hit me that those of us in the marketing community need to be very clear about what we stand for, who we value, and what we're going to do about it. Carrie writes,

"Our opinions matter. The ones that say parental leave is too short. The ones that say there should be more diversity in advertising. These may be business decisions now, but they started as personal opinions. The shift that has started in this industry started as "feelings." It felt shitty to be a woman in a boys' club. It is a bummer to have to leave your newborn at home if you aren't ready to."

But do women's opinions matter? Nothing yet is proving to me that they do. Unfortunately, like the men running Washington, the leaders of the ad industry aren't guaranteed to fight for women. Carrie Ingoglia points out that the lions of the advertising industry (almost all men) have taken a conciliatory stance, even though they probably didn't vote for Trump. She quotes Glenn Cole, co-founder and chief creative officer of 72andSunny: "For those of us working in marketing, we have a clear job to do: to better understand the people with whom we are tasked with connecting. That's our work and our opportunity; to find the new truth."

There is no new truth. Truth is truth. And the truth is that the policies of the new Congress and new Administration, from repealing Obamacare, restricting access to reproductive healthcare, and denying a higher minimum wage means less money in the pockets of America's women and zero respect for what women need and want.

I agree with Carrie Ingoglia: it's time for the advertising industry, the media, and corporate America to step up. Show women you value them by promoting them. Pay women fairly. Make sure your Boards are balanced. Provide parental leave and a more flexible culture not just for married moms, as Ivanka Trump suggests, but for fathers and same sex partners too. Skip the inspirational "femvertising" and have a look at the gender makeup of your staff.

And since women control 85% of consumer spending, you'll be rewarded nicely.