Don't shoot the messenger
Let's work for real change this International Women's Day
Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which inspired thousands of conversations about the amazing efforts of women all over the world. If you spent any time on Twitter, then you might have seen the @PayGapApp, a Twitter bot designed to retweet #IWD2022 tweets from organisations alongside their median gender pay gap.
From universities to police forces, corporate PLCs and local councils, the bot targeted hundreds of organisations across the UK and beyond with its simple but effective method of demonstrating the difference between performative activism and real change.
At first, I was enjoying nothing more than seeing these organisations held to account with cold, hard facts. It took all my willpower not to @ mention the bot in the replies to a tweet posted by my own former employer, who boasts a canny 28% gender pay gap according to its own figures from 2020. But alas, I resisted, as I suspect the bot will find it eventually.
Of course, the Twitter bot brought with it a passionate and angry swathe of people who took to their keyboards to tell these organisations how they felt about this hypocrisy. By lunchtime, many organisations were deleting their original tweets - either to repost or just skip over completely (the University of Exeter claimed a ‘typo’ meant they had to repost.) Click the below thread to see some of the chief culprits.
It was this turn of events that reminded me that, while the Twitter mob means well, the recipients of their furious rants aren’t the people that they think. I spent a year as a Social Media Manager at the company I referenced above, before my eventual redundancy in January 2018. Even though we had a separate Customer Service team, who really faced the true brunt of customer rage on all channels, I was still responsible for overseeing the social activity and neutralising any potential dramas before it all got out of hand.
From hidden dashcams capturing inappropriate footage in dealerships through to helpless customers who can’t get a response any other way, I saw it all. Sometimes complaints would escalate to the local or even national newspapers, and since I was also the PR person when the manager was off during the school holidays, I typically had to bumble my way through calls with journalists and request comment from high levels execs (almost always “no comment”).
To top it all off, the role of Social Media Manager was still not taken seriously by the majority of people both inside and outside of the business. I earned a minimal salary considering I was a line manager to three executives, and I had nothing but arguments with senior management who were more concerned with the lead generation side of marketing than social. Even in the outside world, I’d be hit with comments like: “so you just sit on Facebook all day? Wish that was my job!”
The whole experience was extremely stressful and unrewarding. The only benefit was that I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do with my career in marketing. I wanted to write content, work on cool brands, help companies get their message across in their own way… I didn’t want to be the person that colleagues dread to hear from, the bearer of bad news (and it was always bad news with this company).
So, while I wholeheartedly support the concept of @PayGapApp and I want to see more companies acknowledge their shortfalls and make tangible efforts towards real change, I also think it’s important to acknowledge that this cannot all be done via social media. The person who receives your tweets is likely an underpaid woman herself - 57% of SMMs in the US are women. And, closer to home, UK Social Media Managers are likely earning around £25,507 compared to £33,717 for PPC Managers and £30,022 for Content Managers.
It’s time to hold the right people to account. I think there is some irony to us complaining that the companies in question are practising performative activism while we all sit at home and tweet angrily without sparking any real change.
As usual, I don’t have all the answers, but what I will say is that we must act in line with our beliefs.
Does the idea of garment workers earning 45% lower than the Living Wage make you angry? Stop buying from companies that don’t pay their (often female-dominated) workforces an adequate salary. While the loss of one customer may not make a difference, we vote with our money so the only way we can tell these companies that we don’t want what they’re selling is to not buy it.
Of course, it’s not that simple for the police force or local council. Institutional changes need to come from within and we’re just the little people… So, if you go to Twitter to express your dissatisfaction with these organisations, remember there is a person on the other end who is nothing but the messenger.
What do you think? Let me know over on Twitter @ContentByTheSea or reply to this email for a chat.
📺Mood (BBC iPlayer) - Singer and actress Nicôle Lecky transforms her one-woman stage show into this fantastic BBC drama. If you liked I May Destroy You and Euphoria then this is probably right up your street.
🎧 The Dream by alt-J - Experimental indie kings are back with a new album and it’s been the soundtrack of my working life for the last couple of weeks.
📽️ The Batman - We ventured to the Everyman Cinema for the first time to see Hollywood’s latest attempt at capturing Batman on the big screen. I loved every second of this epic 3-hour feast, it’s absolutely worth seeing it in the cinema for the music and cinematography alone.
That’s all from me this week! See you next Wednesday with more musings on topics that are important to me, including but not limited to: mental health, work/life balance, internet culture, and much more.
Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:
2nd March: How to stay informed without going mad
23rd February: This is how it’s always been
16 February: You can only do your best
26 January: The way to a person’s heart
19 January: How do you work?
12 January: Being a morning person is overrated
5 January: Treading lightly into 2022
15 December: How do you compare?
8 December: Lessons on mental health from Henry Cavill
1st December: Give the gift of rest this Christmas
24 November: Who are you?
17 November: Christmas comes early