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Why women’s work for equality is far from done

April 2014

On becoming a parent one of the vows I made was to never, ever tell my kids off for ‘showing off’. Growing up, I found being told to ‘stop showing off’ hugely embarrassing. For even if I was ‘showing off’, being told off for it felt utterly horrible. Being shown up for showing off, I guess.

Parenthood these days is strewn with semantic hazards. The latest is a Ban Bossy crusade that urges everyone to ban the term ‘bossy’ when referring to a girl’s behaviour.

The campaign was instigated by the chief operating officer at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, and the Girl Scouts movement in the US. It all came about following a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute which found that girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles would make them seem bossy. This fear then puts girls off going after such roles. I’m not so sure. Bossy people aren’t usually people you want to follow, are they? Leaders, on the other hand, are inspirational, people you definitely do want to follow.

The Ban Bossy campaign was given a kick start with a slick YouTube video featuring a wealth of famous faces including Condoleezza Rice, Glee actress Jane Lynch and pop superstar Beyoncé, all urging us to support the movement. Beyoncé’s closing remark, together with perfect hair, skin and lipgloss aplenty is: “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss”. Now what does that glib comment add to the whole equality debate? Indeed, gyrate on a stage and call it ‘girl power’ or gyrate on a stage and put women’s rights back hundreds of years? Who gets the balance right?

Coinciding with International Women’s Day last month, Kellogg’s Special K announced a new strategic partnership in Europe with Chime for Change, another Beyoncé backed initiative and a global campaign to raise funds and awareness for girls’ and women’s empowerment.

Peter Soer, vp marketing at Kellogg Cereals Europe and a new member of the Chime for Change Advisory Board, commented: “We are thrilled to join so many other voices helping girls and women to shine and be the best they can be, which is what Kellogg’s Special K is all about. Large brands like ours can use our scale and reach to help make a positive impact on the world by driving awareness, inspiring action and ultimately helping to make change happen”.

The brand says it will help drive the campaign forward with a “25/25/25” commitment, which aims to share the Chime for Change message with 25m households in Europe; inspire 250,000 voices to “chime in” and join the movement; and help improve the lives of 25,000 girls and women around the world through education, health, and justice. Quite a tall order for breakfast cereal wouldn’t you say? Especially as I grew up thinking of Special K as a diet aid rather than the healthy diet choice into which it has evolved.

And it certainly has a job on its hands: an opinion poll carried out for the brand recently revealed that most women believe true equality – equal opportunities in every field from work to education to health – will not be a reality until 2030. Furthermore, 32% believe gender equality will never exist.


Global | Equality

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