What Brands Are Doing to Celebrate International Women’s Day

Companies use data and storytelling for authenticity

international women
International Women's Day is March 8, and brands are making the day with new campaigns. Shapermint, Everlast, Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam

Key insights:

March is Women’s History Month—the month when, traditionally, brands turn everything pink to convince women that they care. On top of that, today is International Women’s Day. So if a month is too long, brands also have the opportunity to send their empowerment message on one special day.

And this year—as Orangetheory pointed out in its woman-themed spot—International Women’s Day falls on the first day of daylight saving time, meaning that it’s only 23 hours long. So, it’s really only almost a day.

Here’s a roundup—by no means comprehensive—of what some agencies and brands are doing to celebrate women this month.

What do women want?

Several brands and agencies have turned their participation in the month- or daylong festivities into a data-focused endeavor. WPP agency Berlin Cameron teamed up with market research firm Perksy to see how women felt about the way brands treat IWD—and they didn’t look kindly on any companies still pink-washing their initiatives in March.

The poll, which included more than 1,000 women ages 13-75 found that 90% think women should be celebrated year round. Beyond that, 30% said they think brands advocating for women in ads are just trying to drive sales. It proves that “one month of women-focused initiatives aren’t enough to make women feel seen and heard,” said Berlin Cameron president Jennifer DaSilva. “If brands want to show real support for women, they must find ways to celebrate them every day of the year.”

International consulting firm Kearney found a similar sentiment in its 2020 Women Consumers Survey, released just in time for IWD. Over 75% of women surveyed said they’d pay more for products that truly support the advancement of women, but walk away from brands they don’t see helping a cause.

The global state of womanhood

Equal Measures 2030 also released data in time for IWD, but its report, Bending the Curve Towards Gender Equality by 2030, focused on the state of women globally—and how much more work must be done to reach the United Nations’ sustainable development goals by the 2030 target.

Half of the countries studied, home to 2.1 billion women, won’t hit five key gender equality targets by 2030 if they stay on their current trajectories, according to the report. Those targets include access to contraception, girls’ education, political leadership, workplace equality and safety.

Equal Measures 2030 is made up of a coalition of organizations such as the African Women’s Development and Communication Network, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Women’s Health Coalition.

“Far too many countries have been stagnating or even backtracking on vital issues that affect the lives and futures of billions of girls and women, such as whether they finish school or if they have equal rights at work,” said Alison Holder, director of Equal Measures 2030. “Globally, progress towards gender equality is limping along.”

The best and worst states for women

Washington D.C.-based personal finance website WalletHub also took a data-driven approach to IWD, focusing on the ways that different metrics can affect the overall experience of women state by state.

Taking into account things like median income, unemployment rates, uninsured rates, life expectancy, political representation, education rates and the number of women-owned businesses, WalletHub ranked all 50 states. Massachusetts, it determined, is the most women-friendly state, followed up by Minnesota, Iowa, Maine and Colorado. The bottom five were Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Breaking down barriers in the workplace

Employment-related search engine Indeed zeroed in on the roadblocks women face at work. Based on a survey of 1,442 women in the U.S., the company compiled a list of most common barriers to women’s success in the workplace.

While most respondents said that managers have the power to make or break a job situation, minority women said that mentorship and sponsorships played a significant role in their advancement. Among Latina respondents, 50% said a mentorship contributed to their success and growth. Almost one in five black and LBTQ+ participants said sponsorship played a crucial role in their success.

Women ranked managers as the most important indicator of success.

Addressing the gender pension gap

Fidelity U.K. points out in its new IWD video that women invest their disposable income at only 6% in the U.K.—a trend that’ll sustain a nearly 11% gender gap in retirement pensions. The company’s newly released report and marketing for International Women’s Day focus on trying to get to the root cause of that disparity by giving women the information they need to invest thoughtfully to plan for the future.

Connecting women with suffragette ancestors

Taking a more traditional approach, Ancestry developed a campaign for Women’s History Month that frames its services to fit the theme. The genealogy website is launching its yearlong “Make Them Count” campaign commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

“Important historic milestones remind us of where we’ve been, but also where we’re going,” said Jennifer Utley, research director at Ancestry. “It’s very possible your great-great grandmother couldn’t vote. You can, and it’s because of the women who fought for your rights. Celebrating their grit, tenacity and humanity makes them count.”

The company will be unveiling thousands of new records for free throughout the year to encourage people to explore their family histories while highlighting the heritage of suffragettes and their descendants. The campaign launches today, and will include both digital and TV commercial buys.

Spanx, but make it body positive

Shapermint takes something of a “bad feminist” approach to its IWD campaign this year, telling women that they’re all masterpieces who just need a little extra boost of confidence once in a while.

The three-minute spot at the center of the campaign features Venus de Milo (yes, the armless statue in The Louvre) busting myths about the ideal woman’s body—but also saying that it’s totally fine if you want to wear smoothing, Spanx-like undergarments to make you feel more confident. But it’s also fine if you don’t. Do what you want!

Supporting your friendly neighborhood feminists

To celebrate IWD, Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam hosted an art exhibition called “The Intersection” in partnership with Dutch online magazine TittyMag.

The event featured works by more than 40 female-identifying artists living in the Netherlands, with all proceeds going to a local nonprofit called Neighborhood Feminists. The organization was created by three women in Amsterdam to address community needs, and focuses on providing financial and material support to women in need.

Promoting the stories of women in boxing

The 110-year-old boxing brand Everlast unveiled a new campaign in time for IWD, “First Is Strong,” as a way to highlight powerful women in the industry.

The campaign spots follow the stories of three different women: Kris Herndon, a female journalist who used the sport to overcome the trauma of assault; featherweight boxing champion Heather Hardy, the first woman to fight at Barclays Center and in a nationally broadcast bout; and Kathy Duva, a boxing promoter whose success has led her to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, where she’ll be inducted in June.

The brand also launched a petition to remove “female” from the championship belts of two international boxing competitions, urging the governing bodies to “see all competitors as equal, without the need to qualify one’s gender when naming them a champion.”

The women behind the hits

Pandora created a playlist for IWD featuring interviews with female songwriters and producers to highlight the work that goes into some of the most well-known pop music sensations.

The music streaming platform is also launching an initiative called Pandora Presents – Pass the Mic, a series of podcasts, Q&As and mixtapes to tell the stories of women in the music industry.

@klundster kathryn.lundstrom@adweek.com Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.