Felisa H. Batacan, Filipino journalist and crime writer, once wrote: “Some things are better dealt within the cleansing light of transparency and openness rather than in the darkness of secrecy.” Her words resonated with me during last week’s International Women’s Day (#IWD2022).
Posts “celebrating” #IWD2022 exploded across social media. But as the day progressed, my friends, colleagues, and online connections all began expressing a similar frustration: namely, a clear lack of material progress on the core issues of safety, respect, and equity coupled with way too many performative marketing messages masking the reality still facing women everywhere.
This simple but effective bot matched companies posting celebratory Twitter stories or promoting #IWD2022-related hashtags and phrases with an open data set to illustrate the company’s gender pay gap information.
The data used is publicly available online as part of the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017, which covers all U.K. employers with more than 250 staff. These firms are required to publish a comparison of men and women’s average pay across their organization. Under the scheme, employers are also encouraged to provide a supporting narrative and action plan explaining why a gender pay gap exists and what the firm is doing to address the issue.
In the creators’ own words, the bot was intended to embarrass companies “with their own data” to send “a signal to employers that vague messages of ’empowerment’ aren’t good enough!” Conversely, the bot served as a great promotional tool for those few companies with no gender pay gap.
No doubt many of the organizations called out by the bot have a genuine desire to achieve gender equity, but the intent and lofty promises mean nothing without outcomes. Worse, intent can translate into misguided actions that are, at best, ineffective and, at worst, actively harmful to the organization. For #IWD2022, this meant being called out by the bot for obvious tokenism but also the less obvious problem of overburdening women with the emotional labor involved in formulating and promoting the messages of the companies themselves.
Sadly, the problem was compounded when firms identified by the bot chose not to acknowledge their failings or promote the efforts they were taking in response. Instead, many chose to hide by editing tweets, removing hashtags or deleting their posts altogether, only to be captured in a thread dedicated to calling them out further, which included agencies within the UK government itself, such as Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs service.
Open data and transparency in and by the government are intended to foster fairness, but when organizations attempt to hide in the shadows of platitudes, more trust is lost than gained. The time for brands to turn a blind eye to race and gender equity is long past.
As a brand, build trust in your gender-related messaging by following these simple steps:
As Lawson said to The Drum when asked about the use of such bots in the future, “I hope it encourages more honesty and transparency from brands on social media, so they’re not using it to take up space in a conversation they haven’t earned.”
The original article by Forrester's principal analysts Sam Higgins and Jinan Budge is here.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of DigitalWorkforceTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/Jun