9 out of 10 men believe that men and women should take time out to care for their family, whereas only 2% of parents take this up. The Shared Parental Leave policy introduced by the Government is complicated and often only offers men statutory pay, perpetuating the problem. To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, SheSays UK launched #SpamForEquality, a campaign asking CEOs to pledge to review their paid parental leave policy by next International Women’s Day in 2021.
The cheeky campaign calls on those employed in the advertising, marketing, and media industry to send an automated anonymous email to their CEO from equalparentalleave.com, with a pre-written message.
Every time a person adds their CEO’s name to the website an email will be sent to them asking that they review their policy. The campaign follows on from #sharebaby, which launched in August last year, to further drive equality in the workforce.
Outside of the agency bubble, companies such as Spotify, Diageo, Save the Children, and Aviva is leading the way by offering equal paid parental leave. The idea is to “remove the barriers to career progression” so that parents and caregivers have the same opportunities. SheSays wants to see the creative industries follow suit and take action.
To gain some more insight into the campaign and go behind the idea, I caught up with SheSays board member Ruby Norman-Curran and SheSays President Joyce Kremer (below).
What was the brief?
We wanted to do something that reflected this years’ International Women’s Day theme Each For Equal – pushing towards a gender-equal world, and we were also determined to do something that could affect real change.
How did the initial conversations/pitch/brainstorming go?
The SheSays board jumped on a conference call, and everyone chucked their chosen issue into the ring - things we wanted to take on for International Women’s Day. When we came to equal parental leave it was a no brainer; nothing affects the gender pay gap more.
When you think about it, it’s actually shocking that we are still so unequal when it comes to maternity and paternity packages – it’s 2020, not 1920! So we had our goal; get companies to review their parental leave policy, and treat staff as equal parents, regardless of sex, gender, or orientation.
Tell us about the concept and why it was the right choice?
Businesses love to shout about International Women’s Day but when it’s over, nothing changes. We wanted to create something that was going to stick, something that could make a real difference.
The SpamForEquality campaign uses a cheeky tone of voice to disarm and sneak in an important message. We believe this tone will give our campaign stand out and will help us present our cause to a wider audience. It’s all about inviting people in, letting them see the issue and empowering them to solve it themselves.
We hope that by creating the Equal Parents Pledge companies can signal their positive intentions to each other and the world. The more who sign up, the bigger impact we can have, so it’s great to see everyone getting on board with this.
What was the biggest challenge and how it was overcome?
Deciding exactly what we wanted to ask companies to do. We knew the ideal outcome was getting fully equalised parental leave, where the policy was exactly the same. The same amount of time, the same amount of money, and without the messiness of ‘sharing’ the policy (the government introduced Shared Parental Leave in 2015 but it simply doesn’t work with only 2% of parents ever taking it up. Go figure.)
But we also wanted something that all agencies could sign up to whether they were big or small because sex discrimination affects everyone. It took a while to talk Ruby down (She gets very passionate and waves her arms about a lot) but we eventually convinced her we needed to make this accessible, something anyone could agree to. So we asked companies to pledge to review their policy and do “whatever they can” to make it more equal by International Women’s Day 2021.
What’s the main message of the campaign and why is it important?
We’re asking people to “spam” their boss. Each time someone nominates their boss on our website, we will send one anonymous request to said boss for a fairer parental leave policy. The more people nominate, the more that boss gets spammed.
It’s a light-hearted take on a subject with serious implications; if we want to eradicate sex discrimination in the workplace, the place to start is our parental leave policies. Equal parents should get equal amounts of time with their children and be equally paid for it. How can we expect to avoid conscious and unconscious gender bias when we treat mothers and fathers so differently? When men start to be viewed by businesses as potential baby-making “liabilities” too, that playing field is going to level.
By equalising parental leave we address stereotypes that caring for children is women’s work and normalise dads who want to stay at home, which in turn will reduce the gender pay gap, help address the so-called “mummy tax”, and stop discrimination against women of childbearing age.
Why will the final assets resonate with consumers?
We’re appealing to a wide range of people so we wanted assets that appealed in different ways – our initial posts were very straight, very instructional. Nominate your CEO to sign the pledge. As the campaign builds up momentum we’re releasing cheekier posts – playing with traditional spam tropes - to keep the talkability going, and give the campaign cut through.
We also had a fabulous illustrator Eva Münnich who helped us with some really appealing characters for the website and social posts (also used for the SheSays ShareBaby campaign, done in 2019). We think people always respond positively to craft.
What’s the most interesting thing or unique fact about the campaign that will let you cut through?
Who doesn’t want to spam their boss? We hope the campaign will kick off because it’s fun to be a bit naughty, and NO ONE CAN SAY ANYTHING BECAUSE IT’S FOR A GOOD CAUSE. You’ve gotta tune in to something someone wants to do anyway – like the no-makeup selfie - and you’re halfway there. Everyone has a rebellious streak; we decided to try and tap into that.
How long did it take to create from inception to delivery?
A week. It was a very fast turnaround. I don’t think we got to bed before 4 am for that whole time, and somehow we both held down full-time jobs too (at Ogilvy and Wieden + Kennedy respectively), but if it makes a positive difference to just one person, it was worth it.
The SheSays team really came together in order to push this idea out into the world. Melissa Wong did an amazing job actually spamming the whole of Twitter. Katja Alissa Mueller made some stunning design assets, Melissa Mcginnis emailed our London network, Eva Münnich helped us with her super adorable illustrations, Veronica Blårud, Amy Dunlop and Nicola Martin gave us insight from an HR perspective.
We also roped in a few amazing developers (Patrick Steele, Lorenzo Spadoni & Jennifer Vobis), Martyn Powell, Katherine Roseby, Adam Roseby, David Owen and Helena Olsson supported us, and Charlotte Read PR-ed us, getting people talking about #EqualParents, nominating their bosses and signing the Equal Parents Pledge.
It’s amazing to see a project that could make a big impact come to life in the shortest amount of time on the smallest budget (read: no budget). It’s easy to see we all really care about this issue, and when you believe in something, you’ll move heaven and earth to push it forward.
What do you hope to achieve now it’s out there?
If nothing else we want to know we stirred stuff up enough to start a conversation. People need to be talking about this stuff, it’s incredibly important if we’re serious about moving towards a gender-equal world.
Sometimes we think people are scared to engage with serious things - maybe it’s ‘cause the internet has normalised this aggro way of engaging with different opinions, everyone is nervous about the fallout of a ‘wrong’ opinion, but we need to talk about things if we’re ever going to fix them, and even more importantly we need to listen.
We also want everyone to experience the heady joy of spamming the boss. Go ooooooon, you know you want to. Go to equalparentalleave.com and do the deed. They’ll never know it was you.
How satisfying is it to have released the campaign?
Very. It means a lot to have created something that could genuinely affect change. We’ve always cared about these issues and having a platform like SheSays has allowed us to finally do something that could help build a fairer future.
It’s also really satisfying to spam your boss. I mean, not that we did that. Obvs.