Although more than half of Americans are women, 98 percent of the country’s monuments depict men.
And although there aren’t studies about it, it’s safe to say that very few whisky bottles feature women, either.
Next month, both of those absences will begin to change, as Johnnie Walker releases a limited-release Women’s History Month edition of its signature Black Label blend. Jane Walker, a lady flaneur, will briefly replace Johnnie on store shelves to benefit several charities that uplift women’s status in the public sphere.
"Johnnie Walker has for a very long time been about inspiring personal progress, and everything we do is born from there," said Stephanie Jacoby, vice president of Johnnie Walker. "Seeing that women are really at the forefront of the cultural conversation, there was an opportunity as a brand to honor the women who played significant roles in [our] history."
Women have been part of Johnnie Walker since the brand’s inception—a story "we haven’t really told before," said Jacoby. Elizabeth Walker, the wife of the brand’s founder John, worked alongside her husband and son in the grocery store that eventually became a whisky business. Nearly 75 years later, well after Walker’s death, the company he founded purchased the Cardhu distillery from one of the first female Scotch distillers, Elizabeth Cumming; Cardhu is now the core of the Black Label blend.
Today, five of Johnnie Walker’s master blenders are women, and the brand’s parent company, Diageo, is 10 percent away from gender parity at the C-level and will have an equal board as of April. "I think a lot of the effort from Johnnie Walker is really supported by a company that lives the values of progress toward gender equality in the workplace," Jacoby said.
It was natural that a conversation about how to more prominently feature women in a brand execution arose from this environment. But it didn’t crystallize until last September, when Jacoby and several members of her team all independently read an op-ed in the New York Times about the dearth of American statues and monuments honoring women. ‘Why We Should Put Women On Pedestals’ introduced her to Monumental Women, a nonprofit that advocates for the installation of statues of women. "Jane Walker" wasn’t far behind.
"We talk about our brand’s icon a lot, and the value of that icon being such a recognizable symbol to our brand," Jacoby said. "Reading that article, and then [learning about] an organization talking about how important it is for women to see women as symbols of cultural progress, inspired us to talk about history and unrecognized women."
"Jane Walker" builds on the brand’s ongoing "Keep Walking America" campaign, which uplifts "communities and cultures driving the nation forward," as Jacoby puts it, and has so far highlighted immigrants and veterans. Those executions were heavy on digital, whereas "Jane Walker" focuses on print, with placements in the New Yorker, TIME and Vanity Fair and event support including sponsorship of the Women In Film Oscar party.
To honor the inspiration for the campaign, a portion of sales of ‘Jane Walker’ bottles will benefit Monumental Women, which is currently focused on adding a statue to Central Park depicting suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (who were ahead of their times on voting rights but not race). Some proceeds will also go to She Should Run’s efforts to increase the number of women running for public office.
"As a brand who stands for progress, it felt very fitting that we should take this opportunity to celebrate women and their progress," Jacoby said. "Thinking about the importance of bringing more icons to the forefront was was a bit of an a-ha moment for us."