When Cheryl Sandberg’s Lean In became the rage, I have to admit, I ignored it. It wasn’t that I don’t believe in sisterhood, or that women shouldn’t thrive in the workplace. I think I felt I didn’t need her encouragement. Nevertheless, I couldn’t claim to be a student of culture and not read her book (especially since my mother had a free copy, and kept on citing it). So I read it. And, like I expected, I didn’t walk away forever changed. I did appreciate her “voice” and style, however, and thought a bit more about my own voice in my writing and speeches as a result.
Net net, I appreciated Lean In but didn’t feel I had been too hampered by the sexism around me. I don’t love it, mind you. But it hasn’t been a huge barrier to my success. And I don’t let it stop me. One of my female colleagues put it so well when she said, “I’m not scared of the boys, the boys are scared of me!” I couldn’t agree more. But I do have to admit, we, women, still face stereotyping — by men and women alike. So when Pantene, a beauty brand, decided to challenge these stereotypes head on in the Philipines, I was moved.
The spot is very simple. It shows scene after scene of a man and then a woman doing the same things while being perceived very differently as they do them. While successful men are often seen as persuasive, authoritative, and dashing; successful women are often seen as bossy, pushy and showy. I’ve certainly faced this type of stereotyping, no matter what industry I’ve played in. And the comments hurt … a lot. Over the years I’ve tried my best to not let the stereotyping get me down. Of course I do my best to connect with my colleagues and clients so that they see beyond the stereotypes. But, one can only do so much.
So of course I love this ad. But I appreciate this ad not just because it puts the issues front in center — in the Philippines no less — but because it’s a BEAUTY BRAND doing it. You’d probably expect an ad like this coming from a non-for-profit organization. But it came from a category that one could argue fuels stereotyping by making women feel compelled to look beautiful (vs tap their smarts). Yet this beauty brand recognizes that beauty can add to our confidence, which then encourages us to ignore or even actively work to destroy those barriers.