The Super Bowl is much more than a sporting event. Ads on football's biggest night are cultural markers of the nation's evolving attitude toward women. We see more commercials cheerleading feminist ideals, but they remain interlopers in a room of buxom blondes and nagging wives.
Audi’s new spot on equal pay, airing during Sunday's game, is the latest buzzworthy fempowerment ad, set to be viewed in millions of homes just two weeks after the nation witnessed a historic rally promoting gender equality. In the 60-second spot, a dad watches his daughter compete in a cart race while contemplating what to say to her about worth:
“What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa’s worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?”
It sounds decidedly grim, until (*spoiler*) the girl crosses the finish line first, and dad and daughter walk to their Audi S5 Sportback Prestige, ending the tale with a hopeful, "Or maybe I'll be able to tell her something different."
The ad raises an important question: What should we tell our daughters to think about their self-worth?
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We could start with the truth.
"I am strong. I am smart. I work hard. I am beautiful."
In a video that went viral last fall, Ron Alston stands with his daughter in front of a mirror reciting these affirmations. It's a morning ritual with truth at the heart. Girls are strong (and athletically competitive), smart (more women graduate from college than men), work hard (girls get higher grades than boys in all school subjects), and are beautiful (do we really need a citation for that?).
But the world isn't perfect. Or equal.
White women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by white men; black women earn 65 cents. The share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies was 4.2% in 2016. In Hollywood, women account for only 7% of directors and 13% of writers. Congress is currently 19% female, and only about a third of those are women of color. The nation has never elected a female president.
And yet, in 2015 91% of Americans said gender equality was very important. While a generation of girls is being taught there is nothing boys can do that they can't, study after study shows girls' self-esteem plummets during adolescence.
USA TODAY asked Jess Weiner, a confidence and branding expert who worked with the White House Council on Women and Girls, what parents, educators and brands can do to promote gender equality.