P&G’s Marc Pritchard: “You have to look at the systems that perpetuate bias and then break them down”

P&G

24 Mar 2021

Throughout March and in the run-up to Tokyo 2020, the IOC is sharing the journeys of inspirational women and men who are dedicated to combating gender inequality and promoting female representation in leadership roles. Here, we speak to Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at P&G, who has helped the Worldwide Olympic Partner use the power of advertising to fight gender bias.

P&G has long been one of the leading private sector advocates for women’s empowerment, with its Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard ensuring that the company leverages its significant voice in advertising and media to tackle gender bias.

Having been with the company for 38 years, Pritchard has seen the Worldwide Olympic Partner develop one of the strongest portfolios of trusted brands, serving consumers in over 180 countries around the world, and he has been an inspiring advocate for purpose-driven marketing that makes use of brands and services as tools for social change.

Under Pritchard’s leadership, P&G has increasingly tried to use its voice, influence, reach and ground-breaking campaigns like #LoveOverBias and #LikeAGirl to spark conversations and raise greater awareness about gender equality, and he firmly believes that the corporate world has a vital role to play in building a gender-inclusive world.

“Brands affect nearly every person on the planet, every day, and can be agents of change—individually and collectively,” he says. “We believe one of the best ways to solve the challenges facing us today is for brands to spark conversations that mobilise people to take action.”

Why is gender bias an issue that resonates with P&G?

Well, the reason why I think it resonates with us is because we really believe in equality. We see equal. We believe that there should be equal representation, equal voice, equal opportunity, equal roles, equal respect. And particularly when it comes to gender, because 50 per cent of the world are women and 50 per cent of the world are men. So, there should be equality in everything that we do. And that should then extend to all aspects of intersectionality, which includes race, ethnicity, gender orientation, sexual identity, ability, religion, even age. Equality fuels positive things; equality improves society; equality drives growth. It's just the right thing to do, as well as the smart thing to do, to have equality. And that's why it resonates with us and why we focus on eliminating all forms of bias, of course, including gender bias.

Are there any particular moments in your life or your career where you identified gender bias and realised that action needed to be taken?

One of the most profound experiences I had was over 20 years ago, when I ran our CoverGirl business. I was on a spiritual retreat with my wife, Betsy, and our three daughters, who were all under the age of 10 at the time. At the end of this retreat, the leader came up to me and he said, "I hope you know the good you can do because you're in business, and business can someday be the greatest force for good in the future. So, if you choose to do it, you can do a lot of good."

It was this blinding moment of clarity for me. We had just created the “Easy, Breezy, Beautiful” campaign for CoverGirl, and I realised right then that the spokespeople we had were too young, too thin and too white. They represented a very stereotypical and somewhat objectified standard of beauty.

I realised the impact that that would have on how people see themselves. And so, I came back immediately and changed that advertising and brought in new spokespeople, like Queen Latifah. So that was really the first taste of using our voice in advertising.

We’re now working with Queen Latifah again on a programme called “The Queen Collective”. What it does is get women – particularly black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific and Native American women – behind the camera to direct filming. Because believe it or not, fewer than 10 per cent of films are directed by women, and even fewer are directed by women of colour. So, what we did is we took and used our power to be able to try to change this bias, which is clearly a bias.

That's part of what's necessary: you have to look at the systems that perpetuate bias. We have to break those systems down, and that's one example of doing so.

As a Worldwide Olympic Partner, how important is it for you to see the IOC taking action to foster gender equality in sport and throughout the Olympic Movement?

Very important, because we seek partners that share our values, but also take action. And that's why the efforts that the IOC has made over the course of the last few years in particular have demonstrated that not only does the IOC believe in equality and inclusion, but it is taking action in equality and inclusion in its leadership ranks, in working with the NOCs [National Olympic Committees] and ensuring that they put things in place.

Like the way they conduct the Opening Ceremony. Something as simple as carrying the flag, a man and a woman; that's a symbolic representation of intent. Something like what their expectations are when it comes to equality on Olympic teams. The thing is that it's about progress. And even if it's not yet where it needs to be, if there's progress and you're continuing to move forward, then that's what matters. Eventually, we'll get there. We just need to keep pushing.

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