BMO shines a light on unconscious biases around women and money

Who: BMO Financial Group, with FCB Canada and UM Canada, directed by Oscar-nominated Canadian Hubert Davis.

What: “Jane’s Story,” a new campaign aimed at shining light on the everyday stereotypes and phrases that erode women’s financial confidence and contribute to financial inequality. Jennifer Carli, vice-president, North American brand and social media for BMO, says it’s an important societal issue that prevents women from reaching their financial potential.

When & Where: The ad debuted today (March 6), timed to coincide with International Women’s Day. The campaign is concentrated on Toronto and Chicago, running across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. The company has also refreshed, its online resource for female entrepreneurs. The campaign is solely online because that’s where conversations about issues are happening, said Carli.

Why: Because the economic gender gap is real, and if advancement towards equality continues at its current pace, it will take 151 years for it to close. According to BMO, less than one-third of women (31%) say they are “financially knowledgeable,” while only 46% of girls receive lessons from their parents on credit scores (compared with 61% of boys). More than half of women (57%) say they wish they were more confident in their financial decision making.

BMO, which has 41% female senior leadership, has made economic inequality one of its key platforms, including signing the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles—formalizing its commitment to advancing economic opportunities for all.

How: A two minute and 30 second ad shows Jane at various stages of life, being shut out of discussions or events pertaining to numbers or money, from the classroom to professional and personal interactions.

The ad highlights everyday occurrences and phrases that demonstrate how money and finances are still largely considered the purview of men, from a real estate agent shaking the man’s hand while ignoring his wife, to a contractor saying that he will send a quote for a home repair to her husband. The super at the end reads “When we tell girls they’re bad with money… they grow up believing it.”

Each of the vignettes is supported by data, the personal experiences of BMO’s female leaders and the experiences of BMO’s female customers. “I personally was looking for red flags, the one scenario that was just not relevant or didn’t resonate, and that shockingly, sadly, did not happen,” said Carli.

Carli said she’s genuinely optimistic that the future for the young girl depicted in the commercial will be different. “We’re a significant player in Canada, so I think we can make a difference, but I don’ believe we’re alone. I think that there’s a reason why so many brands come out on International Women’s Day, because they recognize that inequality still exists, and it’s not good enough.”

Any concern about accusation of pink washing ? “Sure there was,” says Carli. “We’re not going to be the biggest vendor out there, but I think we’re going to be the one that makes the biggest impact… we’re launching it on International Women’s Day because that’s when the conversation happens. We want to change the conversation, and if the conversation is happening then, that’s where we want to be.”

And we quote: “We have had a longstanding commitment to supporting women in their financial lives, and we thought about how we could—as a purpose-driven organization—really make an impact and drive change that was aligned with what we do as an organization.” —Jennifer Carli, vice-president, North American brand and social media, BMO

Chris Powell