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Since the tragic video of George Floyd’s murder was shared for millions on social media, a remarkable outpouring of support has been brought to a long-standing issue. Racism and police brutality against the black population is still prevalent, not only in America but also in Canada and around the world. The uproar from the public has caused many of us to look at our own biases and behaviour and question where we must do better. Not being part of the problem is no longer enough, and we must take steps to be part of the solution actively.
Among the immense outpouring of support, it’s hard to decipher what is genuine. Many companies have issued statements and have made one-time donations to support the movement; however, it’s unclear if they are committed to creating impactful changes. Sharon Chuter, founder, CEO, and creative director of Uoma Beauty wanted to know the truth. She felt companies making these generic statements were contributing to the problem by resorting to short-term solutions. She called on companies to “Pull Up or Shut Up” – a challenge she coined that involves companies disclosing how they are supporting diversity at the corporate level.
The #pulluporshutup challenge, otherwise known as the ‘Pull Up for Change’ movement, quickly took off and began putting companies to the test. Specifically, they were asked to disclose diversity metrics – the percentage of black people in corporate positions, the percentage of other minority groups in corporate jobs, and the percentage of women-identifying in corporate positions. The challenge’s goal is to encourage brands to have at least 10% black corporate employees; however, other metrics of diversity were quick to get scrutinized.
The campaign has generated a significant social media presence – with the Instagram page @pullupforchange having 125k followers and the hashtag #pulluporshutup generating over 50k posts. But has it gotten the same response from companies? The pressure from social media and the campaign’s message to stop supporting brands that don’t provide transparency seems to be doing the trick. Large and small companies have accepted the challenge including Estée Lauder, Revlon, Ulta, Glossier, and L’Oréal, to name a few.
Although providing transparency does not improve diversity on its own, it has led to companies’ acknowledgment and realization that they need to improve. For example, Revlon stated: “We acknowledge that we are not where we need to be on diversity and representation at our company…. We will be taking more steps in the coming days, weeks, and months as we challenge ourselves to evolve as a brand, a company, and a community. We can and will do better. Thank you @pullupforchange for encouraging this conversation and holding us accountable.”
Other promises made from the success of the Pull Up for Change movement include the creation of new committees and positions with a focus on diversity, changing hiring practices to ensure racially diverse interview panels and candidates, and starting career path and mentorship programs to help nurture and promote the advancement of diverse talent.
For years, organizations have released studies on the benefit of a diverse workforce for business performance. Diversity across all facets, such as gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and sexual orientation, is proven to increase innovation, creativity, and problem-solving abilities within companies.
Mckinsey and Company have continuously reported on diversity within corporations since 2014. Their most recent report ‘Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters’ was released in May 2020 and shows that the benefits to an inclusive corporate culture are greater than ever. Between their first report to now, the variance in performance between diverse companies and their peers has increased substantially.
Their newest report followed more than 1,000 companies in 15 countries. They found the case for gender diversity to be strong, and the case for ethnic diversity to be even stronger.
Companies in the top-tier of gender diversity on executive teams experience 25% above-average profitability than their counterparts.
These numbers are up from 21% in 2017 and 15% in 2014.
The higher the women representation, the higher the performance. Executive teams with 30% or more women representation outperformed those teams with less than 30%.
There is a 48% performance differential between companies on both ends of the gender-diversity spectrum.
Companies in the top tier of ethnic diversity on executive teams experience 36% above-average profitability than their counterparts.
These numbers are up from 33% in 2017 and 35% in 2014.
The study argues that increased representation is not enough to see these benefits. Women and people of colour (POC) need to perceive equality and fairness at all levels. Equal opportunities and the ability for advancement must be a priority. Diversity cannot simply be a quota to meet, but something deeply rooted in corporate culture and company values.
Sadly, even with these published studies, companies have been slow to change. Over the reporting period of six years, female representation on corporate leadership teams has only risen by 5% – from 15% to 20%. More than a third of companies have no women representation at all. Ethnic representation over the same reporting period has only risen by 6% – from 7% to 13%.
We need to do better. The ‘Pull Up for Change’ challenge is not something to be dismissed.
As modern-day consumers, we have more control than ever before. We have an infinite amount of choice with our products and services, and online platforms have given us the power to speak up to corporations. With access to both large and small companies across the globe, being non-selective about where we spend our money is inexcusable. We must use these resources to our advantage and support corporations committed to making a difference. Here are a few things that you can do as an individual:
You can support black-founded and POC-founded brands by following them on social media and substituting for their products. There are many good resources available to search for these amazing brands relatively easily.
If you would like to support businesses in Canada, check out the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce page that features a directory of black-owned businesses and events in searchable categories such as restaurants, marketing, and fitness. The Black-Owned Toronto Instagram page is another useful resource with over 50k followers featuring brands across the Greater Toronto Area.
Inclusive marketing within businesses is another important aspect of diversity. Consumers of all ethnicities should feel welcomed to use a brand’s products.
Social Media is a great way to decipher whether a brand prioritizes inclusivity in its marketing or not. Companies carefully curated Instagram feeds can show many things. Are they hiring models of all ethnicities? Have they done so in the past or just recently? Are they modifying their products with varying skin colours and religions in mind? We can scrutinize all of these things on a company’s social media page.
If you want to find companies taking the right steps, make sure you follow social media influencers of all races and ethnicities. Not only are you able to find inclusive brands by engaging in the sponsored content they are sharing, but you are also supporting the influencers’ future endeavours. With a more substantial social media following, these influencers are more likely to get brand deals and grow their business in the future. For a list of 20 Black female influencers making a name for themselves online, see this list by Tomi Obebe.
Prioritizing diversity in the corporate world is what the ‘Pull Up for Change’ challenge was based on. As was discussed before, the overall industry is not changing fast enough, and BIPOC is not getting the opportunities they deserve.
If you are looking to work for or partner with a large company, it’s worth researching where diversity falls on their priority list. A useful resource is ‘Canada’s Best Diversity Employers’ annual list from MediaCorp in partnership with the Globe and Mail. The list features the top 100 companies when it comes to support:
Members of visible minorities
Persons with disabilities
Indigenous peoples, and
If a company scores highly, this could be a good fit for you. If you aren’t sure, before agreeing to a working relationship, ask them what they are doing to support these groups of people within the organization, especially if you are privileged. The more people express this sentiment, the more these initiatives will be discussed within companies.
Companies have had to invest significant amounts of resources in customer service and public relations due to the new reality of social media influence. A single tweet or Instagram comment can both benefit and significantly harm a brand’s reputation. Companies will go to lengths to ensure that their social media presence remains positive, including responding to criticisms.
If you are unhappy with a brand (whether it be the lack of inclusivity in their marketing, lack of inclusivity in their hiring process, witnessing racial profiling in their stores, or any other negative experience) tell them! I have personally seen the power of social media at uniting a community and creating real change. For example, Anthropology was recently put under scrutiny by past employees who began calling out the company on Instagram. This online backlash eventually caused the company to speak out and make a change.
We are living in a crazy time where social issues appear to be moving in the wrong direction. Progress isn’t being made fast enough, and it’s easy to feel powerless in the movement. I hope that I was able to highlight how everyone can make a difference. As an individual, your purchasing power is your most influential tool. Use it with intent and take the time to research and support brands that encompass your values. If every person changed their purchasing habits with this in mind, the industry will be forced to change for the better.
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Mixed Up Money is pleased to share a free resource for anyone looking to cut back on non-essential spending. My most-requested product is these monthly calendars to share on your Instagram story, use as a phone background, or print off to track your spending habits.
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