How can brands ensure that biases don’t creep in?

A high school student’s complaint last month made local headlines after he called his school “unreasonable” for banning students from keeping their hair long. The A 17-year-old schoolboy, Nathan Lam Chak Chun, took to social media and uploaded a video to his Instagram on July 19, 2022, claiming that he had filed a formal complaint with the Commission for the equal opportunity against Tung Wah Wong Fut Nam College Hospital Group. It happened after the school allegedly told male students to cut their long hair or be banned from school activities or suspended.

Lam said in the video that such a move may have breached the Sex Discrimination Ordinance and that the equality watchdog had accepted their complaint. The teenager further added that he wanted to raise awareness about gender equality via the incident and pointed out that banning male students from having long hair was “unreasonable”.The video garnered over 646,000 views on Instagram with over 2,700 comments the following day, with many expressing their support and encouraging Lam to “speak up”.

The conversation about gender identity and discrimination has come to the fore in recent years. In the workforce, conversations about the gender wage gap are also common, as a recent report by Ranstad who found that the gender pay gap in Hong Kong SAR currently sits at 22%, which is significantly wider than its nearest competitor at the APAC hub of Singapore, which is at 6%. In addition, a Financial Times article revealed that women make up less than 15% ofFurthermore, a Financial Times article revealed that women hold less than 15% of the positions on the boards of directors of the 50 constituent companies of the Hang Seng index. constituent companies.

While gender inequality and barriers are still a common occurrence in business, brands are actively taking steps to address it in Hong Kong, said Wilson Wang, Marketing Director at Price.com.hkadding that the path to healing begins with a simple understanding. “A simple method for employees is to create a survey to assess their work environment, including their views on gender equality and sexual harassment in the workplace,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ivan Zeng, the LEGO Group’s general manager for Hong Kong and Taiwan, said gender diversity isn’t just about trying to market more to girls and women, but how can brands celebrate gender diversity? women’s achievements, celebrating more different people, which is why the company launched “Leadership Playground” to celebrate that everyone is unique in the workplace, “we think we can only truly promote diversity and inclusion that if we’re able to start with ourselves, if we don’t really embrace it or communicate more about it, we can’t bring energy into our marketing and bring real energy to customers, Zeng added.

How can marketing teams encourage equality?

On the marketing side, David Ko, Managing Director of RFI Asia said brands can also work with internal DEI advisors or external parties such as PR agencies to ensure their campaigns are socially aware and respect and accommodate different gender identities. “Understanding gender identity is not so different from understanding the harm that sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc., can cause to society. Take active steps to prevent gender bias. ‘inadvertently infiltrating should be the foundation of any campaign,’ Ko added.

He also referred to the schoolboy incident: “If not allowing long hair is respecting appearance rules, or even industrial safety, like getting in the way of machinery, then it’s is understandable. However, if long hair does not interfere with that person’s ability to perform normal functions, then shortening it may be considered a limitation on their personal freedom,” Ko said.

Desmond Ku, founder and director of The Bridge Agency, said that gender equality is a universal value, brands could show their support by filtering out stereotypes when developing PR campaigns: “For example, men are stronger than women, men can do better than women, marketing for Public relations campaign is very important. Internally, Ku suggested that the brands’ HR department could conduct more internal communications about job scope, salary, etc., with employees to maintain gender equality.

Meanwhile, some local brands are also considering inclusivity when developing new products. For example, virtual insurer OneDegree Hong Kong said that by using technology, the company offers different products to its customers – especially those in the gap market, serving the underserved.

Chow added that to further develop an inclusive workplace culture, OneDegree encourages everyone to be open-minded and does not have a dress code policy. “Our colleagues, regardless of gender, can wear whatever makes them comfortable – even shorts and flip flops – to work. We also support equality to create a fun and friendly work culture. For example , we have extended our staff family benefits to also cover LGBTQ+ families,” she added.

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