For the second time in as many months, Africa achieved social media notoriety. In July, Twitter was aflame over Cecil the Lion. In August Bic South Africa hit the big time with its sexist Women’s Day advert. We need to consider what lessons we can learn from Bic as it is not the first time that the company has been the target of derision over its patronizing attitude towards women. Looking at their track record one can either argue that the company culture is completely deaf and blind to women, or are using this archaic view to get exposure without putting in too much effort. They got their exposure as the wits on social media had a field day, with competing brand, StabiloUK leading the pack with their reply.
However, I think Stabilo missed the point and lose marks for bad grammar. Obviously, the word “Boss” is a perfect fit for their product, but, to look, act and think “how you want” is not a recipe for success either. “Look like you want” implies that you could turn up to work in sweats and a t-shirt. “Act like you want” implies that you can put your feet up on the desk and eat popcorn while streaming a video on your computer. “Think like you want”, while okay, also doesn’t really imply that your thoughts are contributing to the success of your working life. The term “Boss” is not one that has positive connotations. The Hollywood movie series is not called “Horrible Leaders” or “Horrible Managers” – it’s “Horrible Bosses”. “Boss” implies a manager or business owner that treats their staff like indentured slaves and does not lead by example.
McKinsey published a report in 2013 entitled “Women Matter” in which they examined the benefits of having women in leadership positions. They discovered that companies with gender diversity in top management are more successful commercially than those that don’t.
They also conclude that the culture of the company is either conducive to woman advancing or not. They discovered that companies need to promote more engagement from male employees who may be unaware of the barriers to female advancement or unnerved by it. They also feel that companies need to change their culture in order to nurture women in leadership roles. Companies need to gain leaders who are collaborative, are involved in people development and are more inspiring. In addition, having gender diversity at top level, means that the company is achieving a full range of input on all critical decisions.
Lessons from Bic
- take the plunge and promote leadership in your company
- change the culture to include women in leadership roles
- acknowledge that women lead in ways that are different to men and beneficial to the bottom line
- collaboration is the key to changing company culture
- employee feedback can help to take the pulse of the company and identify potential leaders
We know two stationery companies that might need to do this!