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“This is not your work” is a statement that girls in India, and across the world, are often told when they show an inclination towards the field of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). This and other seemingly benign comments, often said to them at a young age, can have lasting effects to the extent that they are conditioned to disassociate themselves from these careers as adults. This has resulted in a lack of gender diversity in science and technology-related fields globally. 

As we see today, things are changing, but at a slow-moving pace. To give a boost to the participation of girls in these fields and to celebrate the success stories of those working in STEM fields, the United Nations (UN) celebrates February 11 as International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Taking a cue from the UN, skincare brand Olay has launched an initiative to help bridge the gender gap in STEM careers in India. The campaign, made in partnership with Publicis Singapore, shows how indiscreet comments from parents, teachers, and other adults can reinforce the belief that an interest in STEM subjects is only for males. It highlights the everyday dialogue that most Indian families have around the choice of career aspirations of girls and young women.

The right dialogue

Olay cites the UN statistic that women make up only 14 percent of the workforce in STEM in India. Olay brings to the fore the root cause of this disparity with an evocative ad, but its support for the cause does not end there. It has partnered with Lead, an edtech player, to fund STEM scholarships for girls across India. Mintel data shows that about half of female Indian consumers strongly agree that they prefer to be involved with companies that promote equality.

When famous brands like Olay put the spotlight on topics that consumers care about such as the gender gap, it has the potential to change the conversation surrounding it. The Mintel Trend “The Unfairer Sex” highlights that the gender gap still exists but brands and consumers alike are working to challenge and change the status quo.

In it together

Wage gap and exclusion in decision-making are only a couple of attitudinal and behavioral biases women face in the workplace. The voice that driven brands like Olay bring to the table is helping to inch towards an equal society, one initiative at a time. The Danish toy production giant LEGO has committed to removing gender biases and stereotypes from its products and marketing. It hopes to create a toy selection that is more inclusive and allows more children an opportunity to express themselves, irrespective of their gender. Hindustan Unilever’s leading dishwashing liquid brand, Vim, recently released an ad that delivered a strong message about shattering antiquated gender roles in India. The campaign promotes gender equality in traditional household responsibilities like cooking and cleaning – that these are no longer limited to women but are tasks that every family member should independently own and contribute to. Such initiatives are directed towards bringing change in people’s attitudes and removing the bane that is gender bias from its very roots.

What we think

The first step to bringing about a change is identifying the problem. Acknowledging the prevalence of unconscious gender bias is paramount to bringing about a conscious change in attitudes and actions. It will help remove barriers women face at home, school, and the workplace.

Today, brands and consumers alike are working towards gender equality and inclusivity – these efforts will continue as awareness also increases. To advocate for gender expression and inclusivity is to be a voice for a specific part of equality, which is a key pillar of the Mintel Trend Driver “Surroundings”. Brands have an opportunity to lend voice to these key issues, with the ability to show a wide audience how small changes can have lasting effects. Every step counts.