A ‘propaganda’ campaign designed to empower working women

Who: The Prosperity Project, with Ottawa agency Greenmelon and Enterprise PR.

What: A new awareness campaign called “It’s not complicated,” demonstrating that there are career opportunities for women in traditionally male-dominated sectors like science, engineering and skilled trades.

When & Where: The non-profit organization started its PR push last week, with visual assets on social. The specific focus is on women 25-34 who have perhaps already been forced to sacrifice their career for family responsibilities during the pandemic, or are keen to pursue a career in non-traditional sectors for women. “We are saying ‘You can do this. There are women who have come before you who are doing this,'” said The Prosperity Project founder, Pamela Jeffery.

Why: Women are massively underrepresented in the professions included in The Prosperity Project’s mandate, with data showing that less a quarter of positions in the natural and applied sciences are held by women; women make up less than 18% of all newly licensed engineers in Canada and just 4.5% of skilled trades workers.

The Prosperity Project goal is to create a “better normal,” with Canadian women inspired to join and remain in the workforce. The focus is on three key areas:

  • Increased opportunity and child care/elder care support;
  • Partners encouraged to share household responsibilities more equally; and
  • Employers motivated to increase advancement opportunities and achieve gender parity throughout their organization.

“For too long, women have not been pursuing careers in the high-paying jobs that we’re highlighting,” said Jeffery. “We thought that if there’s going to be a silver lining in this terrible time, maybe it can be an opportunity for women to finally break into those jobs.”

The pandemic has disproportionately affected women, who in many cases have been forced to juggle the demands of their job while shouldering most of the family responsibilities. “There are a lot of very unhappy working moms right now wondering how they’re ever going to get back to work again, if ever,” said Jeffery. “It’s making their lives absolute hell, to be blunt.”

With the Liberal government pledging $1.5 billion to help Canadians find new jobs through job training and re-skilling programs, Jeffery said that there is a perfect alignment with what The Prosperity Project hopes to achieve.

How: The campaign draws its inspiration from Rosie the Riveter, the iconic World War II-era character created to inspire women to join various male-dominated industries to plug the massive labour holes left as men joined the military.

While the new poster series was designed to evoke the past, it specifically portrays women of all ages and ethnicities, reflecting the contemporary makeup of Canada. “When you look at Rosie, she’s clearly a white woman,” said Jeffery. “We wanted any woman in the country to look at [these images] and see herself represented. We wanted to use these so women could look at themselves.”

The visuals are accompanied by phrases like “It’s not precision welding” and “It’s not high finance,” a reference to the familiar expression “It’s not rocket science”—traditionally used to connote the idea that something is not as difficult as it might seem. The goal is to convey that it shouldn’t be complicated for women to become whatever they dream of being.

What is The Prosperity Project? Launched in May 2020, The Prosperity Project was built around the core principle that everyone succeeds when women prosper. “We really want to underscore the economic importance of gender equality in Canada,” said Jeffery.

It stemmed from Jeffery’s realization that the pandemic would disproportionately affect women in the workforce. “We felt that women would likely experience heavy job losses [and]… would likely be going crazy trying to hang onto their jobs and look after kids,” she said.

Jeffery recruited 62 female leaders from across the country, all of whom pledged dollars to get it off the ground, and also worked to secure backing from corporate partners including Ontario Power Generation, Deloitte, Accenture, Enterprise, The Globe and Mail, KPMG and others.

And we quote: “We encourage Canadians to share what resonates with them from this campaign on social media and proudly display these modern-day symbols of women’s skills, strengths and successes. After all, if women and girls can see it, they can be it.” — Pamela Jeffery, CEO, The Prosperity Project

(Originally published on April 6, 2021)

Chris Powell