How often do you read of companies doing something that offends people? There have been several cases lately where companies had to recall merchandise because it was blatantly inappropriate for girls, because it was blatantly degrading to women or a racial group, or because it was inappropriate and offensive for other reasons. In this day of social media and instantaneous communications, word spreads fast and companies have to backtrack if they want to protect their brand, their image.
At the same time, companies are increasingly embracing the benefits of diversity. Diversity is “in”. To say you value something means you have a high opinion of it, you consider it important and beneficial. When you value something, you treat it with respect. We expect companies that value to diversity to treat all demographics with respect.
Unfortunately, company values and the real world sometimes collide. Mistakes are made that belie the stated values. It might be the result of simple thoughtlessness, or of imperfect humans working under stress and without checks, or of a company’s thinly disguised attempt to look better using words they don’t believe. There are many reasons companies get caught in these messes.
One such collision happened recently. A business proudly proclaims: “At [company], we don’t see diversity and inclusion as just another program; instead, these concepts are woven into the fabric of our organization and are truly a part of who we are and how we work.” This sounds great, and this is a good company so it is believable. This company decided to promote a service to women and put out a flyer that reads: “We are women. We run marathons. We run households. We can handle this.”
Oops. Something seems to be missing. The flyer hit a flat note.
Focusing on women as housewives is a seriously outdated stereotype. Women have been openly fighting to eliminate this stereotype for 40-50 years. Women are no longer expected to stay home. They run much more than households; they run hospitals, universities, corporations, countries and so much more. The marathon reference is a nice nod to a more modern reality, but it doesn’t make up for the thoughtlessness and lack of respect. This is the type of message that gets lampooned in social media.
Some people think this is a case of political correctness. Regardless, offending an entire demographic group while pretending to value diversity is incongruent. It raises questions about the company’s commitment to diversity. It opens the door to question other aspects of the company’s brand.
What do you value? Do you treat it with respect? Do you maintain integrity around your commitment to it? Would others know you value it based on your words and behavior? If not, you might want to step back and reassess your commitment to it, and clarify for yourself and others what it is you really value by acting accordingly.