Last week while flipping through the pages of beauty magazine Allure, I came across an ad that stopped me in my tracks. It was a blank white page with simple black text stating, “99 percent of readers won’t understand the following pages because of the increasing gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.”
Over the next few pages, four separate ads highlighted successful women in STEM careers across industries. Each featured an equation or code that, when solved or translated, gave more information on the current gender gap in STEM fields. (The solution to each puzzle was included on the bottom of the page for the 99 percent of us who couldn’t solve it.) Every ad in the series ended the same way: the Olay logo, followed by the words “Face the STEM Gap”.
The series focused on STEM also ran in Harper’s Bazaar and The New York Times, along with commercials on TV and online.
The leadership team at Olay realizes “simply donating to an organization is not enough,” Janelle Wichmann, Olay brand director, said in an interview with Adweek.
“To have meaningful impact, we need to make a long-term commitment to the right cause, partner with relevant people and organizations, and initiate the conversations to ensure that the realities we are facing are at the forefronts of people’s minds,” Wichmann said.
As a result, the #FaceTheSTEMGap project includes three parts to address the need for more women in STEM by 2030. The first goal is to double the total number of women in STEM careers. The second goal is to triple the number of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) women in STEM positions. For the third component, Olay says it is making a $1 million pledge to fund scholarships and internships for women in STEM fields. To kick off this initiative, Olay donated $520,000 to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
This wasn’t Olay’s first time this year raising awareness of the STEM gender gap. During February’s Super Bowl LIV, Olay debuted its #MakeSpaceForWomen commercial. The all-female Super Bowl commercial featured celebrity personalities Katie Couric, Taraji P. Henson, Busy Phillips and Lilly Singh, and real-life retired astronaut Nicole Stott. In the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Olay donated one dollar to Girls Who Code each time someone tweeted with the hashtag #MakeSpaceForWomen and tagged @OlaySkin.
In March, Olay launched the #SkinInTheGame educational initiative in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. The program focused on showing girls that women – regardless of skin tone – can have a career in STEM. Olay selected 10 female students from Cincinnati-area Aiken High School to spend the day meeting with P&G scientists, specifically women of color. (P&G’s headquarters are located in Cincinnati.) Olay also awarded each girl a $10,000 scholarship to pursue further education in STEM fields.
The key takeaway of all of Olay’s 2020 campaigns is that representation matters. When young women see reflections of themselves in these technical and science-based careers, they gain the confidence to pursue fields they may not have considered before.
“I want young Black girls to see as many faces of Black women in STEM as possible, as often as possible,” said Erica Joy Baker – a GitHub software engineer featured in the #FaceTheSTEMGap advertisements. “Olay’s campaign will show young girls that they can not only be the change they want to see in the world, but that they can be the creators of that change.”
Image credit: Pexels
Megan is a writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. She is the author of Show Up and Bring Coffee, a book highlighting how to support friends who are parents of disabled children. You can follow her at JoyfulBraveAwesome.com.