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Combatting Casual Sexism

Combatting Casual Sexism

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Let me start with what this post is not. It is not an analysis of the latest provocative celebrity fashion shoot and inevitable sensationalist fallout. It is not a recap of the many strengths and talents women bring to the workplace. They matter. But you know them already.

Instead, I want to tell you about the insidious effect of an everyday Cantonese phrase that means both “cleavage” and “career line,” and how we are campaigning to change attitudes about casual sexism in Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, the colloquial term “career line” (事業線) is widely used to refer to a woman’s cleavage. Every day, the phrase peppers tabloid media and casual conversation. And every day, the use of this term legitimizes the objectification of women. It diminishes a woman’s professional achievement by making it all about her appearance.

We’re helping to change that.

On International Women’s Day 2017, we launched #MyRealCareerLine with The Women’s Foundation* and J. Walter Thompson, a campaign that celebrates the talent, capabilities and other drivers behind a woman’s real career line, while challenging the use of the term “career line” (事業線).

It’s backed by a growing number of influential women and men including female icons from media, entertainment, business and sport, Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission, and Gary Liu, CEO of the South China Morning Post.

Compelling Edelman Intelligence consumer research has enabled us to frame our call for change with credible statistics that underline the scale of the issue and prove the need for action. With more than six in 10 people in Hong Kong failing to see the term as derogatory or harmful, the first vital step is to attract sufficient attention to make people stop and rethink.

We’re doing that in spades. The campaign is attracting high-impact, in-depth media coverage, including front-page articles and sustained commentary. Leading media outlets are publicly reconsidering their editorial policies, and the campaign is driving debate on social media.

At the recent Campaign 360 Summit, Bob Grove, chief operating officer of Edelman APACMEA , led hundreds of communications leaders in symbolically ripping up the career line—simultaneously tearing up the #MyRealCareerLine campaign emblem of a cleavage silhouette.

This is just the beginning of what must become a long-term movement if we are to achieve and sustain genuine attitude and behavior change.

It’s an inspiring beginning, and we are fiercely proud to be playing our part in putting an end to often unwitting—but nonetheless dangerous—casual sexism in Hong Kong.

Find out more about the campaign at realcareerline.hk.

Carolyn Hammond is director and head of Brand, Edelman Hong Kong.

*Edelman pro-bono client

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