Where there’s a social or political cause, there’s usually a sales opportunity, and International Women’s Day is a prime example. The holiday, which takes place annually on March 8 to commemorate the women’s rights movement, has long been used by brands to garner some extra buzz for attaching themselves to feminist causes. This year, however, the pressure to do so is especially high.
The feminist conversation that’s leaked into the mainstream since last year’s Women’s March has increased in volume with the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, both formed in the wake of high-profile sexual assault allegations. This has only fueled consumers’ growing desire for their favorite companies to take a social or political stance on issues they care about.
As such, beauty brands — which cater largely to female consumers — are ramping up their involvement this year, using various platforms to engage with issues centered around female empowerment.
“Beauty and health brands have a responsibility to be socially conscious and aware in their day-to-day operations,” said Katerina Schneider, founder and CEO of the minimalist supplement company Ritual. Her company is donating all proceeds from new subscriptions ($30/month) placed today to Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science. “As a [tech-driven] company that is for women, by women, we realize more than ever the importance of closing the gender gap when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math,” she said.
A lookbook image from the supplement company Ritual
Other young brands are also using the day to donate to female-centric causes.
The customizable hair-care line Function of Beauty is allowing its shoppers to choose which charity their purchase total will go to, including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, No More (which fights domestic violence) and the non-profit mentoring program Step Up.
“Just as we give ownership to our customers to choose a product that’s for them, we want them to feel empowered to choose where we should donate for the day,” explained the brand’s CEO and co-founder, Zahir Dossa. The company plans to continue running this promotion on a recurring basis.
Skylar Body, an indie perfume line, will also donate 100 percent of the proceeds from its newest scent (available for pre-order on Thursday) to Step Up, which they already donate an undisclosed portion of their proceeds to annually.
“Doing good is a fundamental pillar of our brand and the reason why we launched Skylar to begin with,” said founder Cat Chen.
Nevertheless, it’s an older brand, Birchbox, that seems to be making the biggest noise this year by launching its Future Starts Now fund, which will provide four women throughout the year with $5,000 each to use toward funding a career goal or personal project. The brand is also partnering with Dress for Success to offer complimentary hair and makeup services, along with professional headshots, at its Soho store.
“As a company founded by women, run by mostly women and serving women, we can’t afford not to be a part of this conversation,” the brand explained on Instagram, where it’s also been featuring question-and-answer sessions centered on career advice with five of its top female executives throughout the week.
“It’s impossible to deny that there is a movement happening for women right now,” said founder and CEO Katia Beauchamp, of the company’s involvement. “We feel a responsibility to be a part of the force that propels real, tangible changes as women demand greater agency, both professionally and politically.”
A lookbook image from indie perfume brand Skylar Body
But of course, sales are also part of the motive: The company has curated a special section of female-founded brands like Ouai and Benefit on its website to accommodate any girl power–fueled spending frenzies.
Elizabeth Arden is also participating, launching a new multi-year campaign called “March On” that’s fronted by its brand ambassador (or “storyteller-in-chief,” as the company calls her), Reese Witherspoon. This month only, it’s selling a limited-edition version of its Beautiful Color Moisturizing Lipstick ($26.50), the total proceeds of which will go to UN Women, which champions gender equality and female empowerment. The brand has pledged to donate at least $1 million to the organization.
“The funds raised by Elizabeth Arden through the March On program will help strengthen UN Women’s global programming, which will lead directly to the increased responsiveness and sustainability of field-level activities,” said Tunay Firat, the head of strategic private sector partnerships for UN Women, in a press release.