Today it’s Equal Pay Day. The day when women stop earning relative to men because of the gender pay gap. It’s a good day to remember the Fearless Girl.
Who can forget the fearless girl facing up to the fearsome symbol of bullish male chauvinism that is the Wall Street charging bull? At last a testosterone-fuelled Wall Street firm was doing the right thing. It was lauded by the media and politicians alike. New York advertising agency McCann boasts on its website about the awesome creativity of its guerilla campaign that saw it sneak in the middle of the night to drop off without permission the statue of a girl to face up the famous Wall Street charging bull.
Launched on International Women’s Day in March 2017 it was meant to symbolise the power of women in leadership. Specifically, State Street Global Advisers, the client paying McCann for the stunt, wanted to highlight that companies with women in top positions perform better financially.
It was so good that within months it had won some of the world’s top marketing and PR awards. It won the Cannes Lion in three categories, including one for PR. It also won a prestigious Titanium Lion that celebrate “game changers”, specifically “Entries will need to break new ground in branded communications; that is, provocative, boundary-busting, envy-inspiring work that marks a new direction for the industry and moves it forward.”
Cannes Lion PR jury president Karen van Bergen, president of Omnicom Public Relations Group, said: “It is a perfect example of doing well by doing good.”
Except Fearless Girl was living a lie
However, it emerged in October that State Street Corp’s commitment to equality and celebrating the talents of women didn’t actually go so far as to pay them as much as men. State Street Corp was forced to pay $5 million to about 300 women employees who were paid less than their male counterparts.
It appears that State Street thinks it’s great to talk about how brilliant women are in leadership, but not brilliant enough to put its money where its mouth is and pay them as much as men.
A Google search for ‘fearless girl’ now results in eight of the first nine results being negative media coverage about State Street discriminating against women and opposing gender pay equality:
Far from being a campaign that deserved to win a PR award Fearless Girl deserves to be a case study of what happens when you put spin and what you say before what you do.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations’s definition of public relations is:
Public relations is about reputation: the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.
If the Fearless Girl campaign had been given proper public relations oversight it should never have happened. A PR professional would have asked questions such as: Is it true? Are we practising what we preach? Simple, but essential questions to help prevent the need for crisis communications.
Real corporate social responsibility is behaving in a social responsible way. Not just saying you do or putting a shine on part of what your business does, while the rest continues to act irresponsibly.
So next time your advertising or marketing agency tries to convince you about a great creative idea, be sure to check with your PR or corporate communications professionals first.