By Sofiya Mahdi, Senior PR & Communications Executive at Ogilvy UK

This week, Ogilvy’s PR & Influence practice hosted an event at Sea Containers, “The Changing Face of Feminism”. The audience was fortunate enough to hear from a variety of different speakers, chaired by our Creative Director and ex-Elle UK editor Lotte Jeffs, covering the many facets of the feminist movement, the rise of activism, what future challenges are for the next generation, how brands can market to women better and much more.

Once those themes had been explored, there was a panel discussion to bring varying viewpoints together in a lively debate on where society can go from this tipping point we're experiencing within our industry and beyond. Both the speaking sessions and the panel provided some key themes to consider. Find out what came out of the event below:

1. Fourth Wave Feminism, Social Media Activists & Emotional Intelligence

Strategic Researcher Victoria Buchanan of The Future Laboratory has observed some fascinating trends for how both audiences and brands are approaching this unchartered new world. A century after women got the vote in the UK, many women don’t necessarily identify as feminists. However, the proliferation of social media and the rise of ‘fourth wave feminism’ is placing women’s issues within mainstream conversation. Activism has become the way consumers are really defining who they are, forming a lens in which to process the world around them. In the face of technological innovation, such as AI – this want for connection, community and a unifying cause is actually contributing to the demand for emotional intelligence. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020 emotional intelligence will be the sixth most sought after skill. The silver lining in the volatility of the modern era? The next generation. With diversity and inclusion already embedded far deeper amongst them, hopefully men and women will be able to help push the feminist agenda forward in a productive way.  

2. Publishers and Content Creators Have a Responsibility to Represent Real Culture

Publishers, content creators, journalists, authors… they all know more than anyone the power of the written word – and even the imagery that goes with it. CEO of Shortlist Media which includes popular title Stylist, Ella Dolphin, implored the industry to tell the real stories – narratives of forgotten women, the Suffragettes who endured many hardships to pave the way for the freedoms we have today. Only 8% of bank notes globally have female images. There are three times more images of men on passports than women. She argued that publishers have a responsibility to portray the full tapestry of humanity – to serve both as a beacon for all but also as inspiration for the next generation.

3. “Pink is Not a Strategy” – But Brands Should Stay Resolute to be Inclusive

Lisa Jedan, Global Head of Brand & PR at Bacardi-Martini Ltd. and Andrea Montague, Dewar Brand Ambassador argued that in order for brands, marketers and even agencies to appeal to women (who in 10 years will represent 75% of all discretionary spending), they have to do it in a way that avoids stereotypes, presumptions or assumes all women are homogeneous. Ogilvy Noor’s Vice President, Shelina Janmohammed, added that in order to truly create diverse advertising and marketing, marketers must continue to push for a diverse group of people working on campaigns – and strategists will play a big part in the development of more authentic messaging. She also commented on how we might go about creating this diversity at every level of a business - "we have to make and open those doors and encourage people in. We have to give people a hand up and pull them to the top table", Shelina says.

4. Feminism: The Business Case

When we think about feminism today, what's fascinating is that not many people are positioning feminism as an economic movement, yet for author and journalist Ella Whelan, the business benefit is real. She believes empowering women to embrace their freedoms and having them contribute across the board when it comes to business will reap gains for our global economy. Shelina elaborated that many women around the world don’t all start at the same point. Women in different cultures face very different challenges, the irony being women who are considered to be ‘ethnic minorities’ are actually most women in our world today. There are real benefits to our global economy to empower women and have them contribute.

Ultimately, as author Alyson Walsh said on the panel, the increased divide is what will most hinder the movement for feminism – and any movement at all. When everyone is splintering in society, real change can only happen in unity and unison.