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Olay attempts to #STEMTheGap in India through latest campaign

The skincare brand sheds light on gender biases and is funding STEM scholarships for girls in partnership with school edtech platform LEAD.

Last week, Dr Alka Mittal took charge as the chairman and managing director (CMD) of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), becoming the first woman to head India’s largest oil and gas producer. For an organisation where women constitute less than eight per cent of the workforce, this was a historic appointment.

Every year, when Class X and XII results are announced, we see newspaper headlines like ‘Girls outperform boys once again’. Whether it is math, science, languages or history, girls manage to score better than boys year after year.

Yet, when it comes to college admissions, the reality is quite different. There are very few girls in science streams and very few boys in arts. It only gets worse at workplaces.

ONGC is just one of many organisations that have a poor gender ratio. According to the United Nations (UN), in India, women make up only 14 per cent of the workforce in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

In its latest initiative #STEMTheGap, Olay India attempts to change this status quo by committing to help close the gender gap in STEM. The leading skincare brand has unveiled a film highlighting how our unconscious biases restrict girls from following their passions.

The brand is also walking the talk by funding STEM scholarships for girls across India in partnership with LEAD, a school edtech player powering 3,000-plus schools to deliver international standard education to over a million students.

Rooted in cultural barriers and stereotypical gender roles, women are often stereotyped as caregivers or homemakers, and restricted in their fields of study to teaching, nursing, fine arts, home economics, etc. While there has been an increase in the number of STEM jobs in India, there is a need to encourage girls to pursue STEM education.

Created in partnership with Publicis PG One Singapore, Olay’s film highlights how young girls are talked down upon when it comes to pursuing STEM interests and careers, instead of the conventional roles framed by age-old societal norms. Showcasing different scenarios, where girls are subjected to bias, the film narrates examples of a girl, who is told to not do a task just because her clothes may get dirty, or a teacher assuming that a science project was done by a male peer.

Priyali Kamath, senior vice president, skin & personal care – Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, Procter & Gamble (P&G), said, “As a brand rooted in science, but proudly also a brand of women (amongst Olay’s 220 scientists globally, 50 per cent are women), Olay knows that girls have the potential to become not only amazing scientists, but successful in any STEM career. In a decade’s time, the majority of jobs will be technology-based. We believe that it’s our collective responsibility to prepare girls for the jobs of the future, and that’s why we are committed to helping close the gender gap in STEM.”

“We are delighted to have created such a heart-warming, yet thought-provoking film that stitches together different everyday scenarios to highlight the underlying gender bias that prevails in our society. Beyond this, our scholarship program with LEAD is already making a real and meaningful difference today, and we are excited to be part of driving a positive future for girls in India. Together, let’s #STEMTheGap.”

Ajay Vikram, chief creative officer – global clients, Publicis Singapore, added, “When you think of a critical, but challenging goal, like achieving gender parity in STEM, it’s easy to think ‘but what does it have to do with me?’ The fact is, the current gap between boys and girls lies not in their abilities, but in our minds. We can all play a part in narrowing this gap by being more aware and conscious of our everyday biases and societal blind spots, and in encouraging others to do the same. Systemic change begins with you and me.”

Olay believes the future of girls depends on what one teaches them now, yet there is still a long way to go for equal access to education. Since 2021, Olay is sponsoring tuition fees, as well as tablets and data packs for girls across six states in India.

“Olay has a long history of empowering women to be confident and fearless, and this extends to how women are portrayed in our advertising and the stories that we tell. Portraying empowered and confident women is core to Olay’s brand values and, above all, we do this because we believe in equality and that it’s the right thing to do to drive this agenda forward,” added Kamath.

The 360-degree campaign has been launched on connected TV and digital platforms, and will further be amplified through various other media platforms.

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