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SK-II CMO says much work needed to make industry gender bias visible

Just the simple act of starting a conversation can make a difference.

Procter & Gamble's second annual APAC #WeSeeEqual Summit brought together leaders from various industries to talk about improving the diversity and flexibility of the workforce. The summit discussed how leaders can challenge the “myths” around women’s leadership skills, their representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), or their ambitions.

The Drum sat down with Kylene Campos, the chief marketing officer for SK-II at P&G to talk about the FMCG's giant progress in driving social change and promoting a more equal world, and using content to change stereotypes and foster diversity.

From Gillette’s ‘The Best a Man Can Be’ campaign to SK-II’s ‘Meet Me Halfway’ campaign, P&G’s campaigns have been designed to drive social change and promote a more equal world. Have you seen any progress so far, in terms of the industry and consumer attitudes towards these issues?

We have reached millions of consumers across the globe and initiated meaningful conversations with them, reflected by the highly recorded social engagements that these campaigns have generated. When consumers engage, progress happens.

Just the simple act of starting a conversation can make a difference.

We are however far from having achieved our objectives. After all, the change will not happen overnight. At P&G, we will continue to leverage our brands’ voices and our strong presence in media and advertising to have meaningful engagements with our consumers and continue the conversation which will ultimately drive the change needed to reduce the gender gap.

We take this as a responsibility and will use our influence as a force for good, stick to what we started and push it further.

What are some key lessons P&G can share from leveraging its position as an FMCG giant in media and advertising to empower women and girls around the world?

Lesson #1: Take responsibility. Our position as one of the largest advertisers in the world comes with great responsibility and we take this responsibility very seriously. We are committed to using our influence as a force for good and a force for growth in the communities we operate in. We hope others will join us in this quest for equality and use their advertising power to empower girls and women across the globe.

Lesson #2: Be truthful. Impactful campaigns need to be rooted in fundamental consumer and brand truth. At P&G, we do not do purpose campaigns just to ride on current social trends and stay on the surface. It is important to us that all our campaigns reflect each of our brand’s DNA and combine it with our consumer’s most relevant social interests.

Lesson #3: Drive consistency. Achieving true progress in gender equality requires time and cannot and won’t be achieved through a quick one-off campaign. At P&G, we aim for real change in the short and in the long term. Our approach is to connect truly with our consumers at a human level and understand what their real-life pressures are, the cultural environment they live in and the real aspirations they have. We then leverage our portfolio of leading brands to reinvent popular culture and help to initiate the transformation of gender norms.

Making bias visible drives awareness, starts conversations and ultimately has the power to change mindsets. Through Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad’, Joy’s #JobToJoy, Pantene’s #ShineStrong, SK-II’s #ChangeDestiny and Whisper’s #LikeAGirl for example, we have focused on pressing social issues. We have already successfully reached millions of people and engaged them on conversations all around the world with no intention to stop.

How can content be used to change stereotypes and foster diversity, from P&G’s point of view?

We believe in the power of consumer insight and creativity in transforming perception and in the end, even human behavior! Key to this is content that is, first of all, founded on real human understanding, on our consumer obsession, and done in a way that truly connects with the target audience in meaningful ways.

When we have this combination, I believe consumers engage with our brands positively – even when the topic is controversial or provokes discussion. There needs to be an in-depth understanding of multiple sides of the issues and how we can portray these different viewpoints creatively and in a resonating manner is what can spark the mindset shift.

Through our SK-II #ChangeDestiny campaign, for example, we have focused on the specific area of age and marriage pressure from the perspective of single women. In Ariel India’s #ShareTheLoad campaign, we delve further into a mother’s viewpoint on gender equality. In the commercial, a mother realizes that while she has been teaching her daughter to care for herself, she still looks after her adult son by serving him food and picking up after his mess.

Through this, we see mothers as the flag-bearers of change and show how they can relook into the way they are raising their sons so that they can be equal partners tomorrow. In just two weeks since its launch, the commercial garnered over millions of views and inspired lively conversations among those who have watched it.

This said, our campaigns are just the beginning towards driving this transformation on gender equality, which not only bridges diversity today but also helps to empower the younger generation of women and men to a place free from gender bias for the future generations.

In Asia Pacific, we are hearing things like "there are too many white men in big roles" and "no female leadership" but the core of the issue is no one is grooming diverse talent to take over leadership roles or even investing in young diverse talent. What should brands do to build a legitimate pipeline for diverse talent? Are roles like ‘head of diversity and inclusion’ the answer or a band-aid on a bullet wound?

We do not believe that there is a pipeline issue – on the contrary. Our company and the workforce at large has plenty of highly qualified women ready to take on challenging tasks. At P&G, gender equality is a long-standing value and we are committed to creating an environment in which both men and women can thrive.

At P&G, gender equality is the responsibility of all us and to drive change beyond just putting a band-aid we need to act at multiple levels.

Busting gender myths: With our objective in mind of creating a gender-equal society, it is important that we continue busting the myths that still today hold women back at work and very specially on leadership positions. From the myth, that women lack leadership, question and doubt themselves too much, to the one saying that women are not good on STEM or the pervasive one that children and household chores are just a woman’s responsibility, all these myths have been engrained in our society for the longest time. It is time to unlearn them and replace them with a new narrative. That’s how we achieve real progress.

Engaging men as allies: At P&G, we also don’t believe that gender equality is a women’s issue alone. Convinced that diversity not only creates a positive environment, in which everyone can thrive but also enhances business results, we are engaging everyone to drive positive change inside the organization. One of the ways to engage both our men and women on gender equality is through our program called MARC, which stands for Men Advocating Real Change and is designed for men, attended by men and women – and is all about understanding bias – and building more inclusive leaders.