Planned Parenthood calls on brands to step up and lead inclusion

(L to R) Alencia Johnson, Lauren Wesley Wilson and Shelley Zalis
(L to R) Alencia Johnson, Lauren Wesley Wilson and Shelley Zalis

"We've found this is actually more equitable for companies."

Planned Parenthood has called on brands to lend their weight and lead the charge in gender equality and diversity.

Alencia Johnson, director of public engagement at the organization, stressed the need for unity in the global fight for inclusion during a talk at The Girls’ Lounge at Advertising Week in New York City on Tuesday.

"We can’t do this alone," she said. "We need companies to step up for folks who are so vulnerable, and what we’ve found is that it’s actually more equitable."

Johnson explained that more than 80 percent of Americans want their corporations to take a stance with issues, particularly around women’s rights. Corporate activism plays a huge role in igniting change.

Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, noted that the role of chief diversity officer is typically filled by a women of color and asked how men can be part of the solution.

"There is a lot of room for men in this conversation, because also as we talk about better access to reproductive health care, men benefit from that too," Johnson said.

"You have to look at the power structure; men have more power in the world. When you look at women doing better in the world, the economy actually does a lot better, the world does a lot better, society does a lot better, and we need men to be part of that conversation."

She added: "I want to push back on the notion we hear that ‘I have a mother, I have a daughter, I have an aunt’ -- your relationship to a woman shouldn’t matter, it should just be the fact that this is another human."

Lauren Wesley Wilson, founder and CEO of ColorComm, said companies and brands need a full-on strategy -- not just box-checking system.

"It’s about retention and making sure that people of color in these organizations feel supported and have the tools for them to be able to grow," she said, adding: "There are so many people of color in this industry who aren’t necessarily spokespeople for their company."

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