Brands compete to highlight female achievement by marking International Women’s Day.

Earlier this month, Mattel launched 17 Barbie doll Sheroes, modeled on historical and modern female icons, to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. Wonder Woman film director Patty Jenkins, snowboarding champion Chloe Kim and UK boxing legend Nicola Adams were among those immortalized in doll form, alongside painter Frida Kahlo, aviator Amelia Earhart and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.

The dolls are part of the company’s Shero initiative, which was created to inspire the next generation of young girls and address the worries of the 81% of mothers around the world who worry about the role models their daughters are exposed to, according to a 2018 survey commissioned by Mattel.

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“As a brand that inspires the limitless potential in girls, Barbie will be honoring its largest line-up of role models timed to International Women’s Day because we know that you can’t be what you can’t see,” said Lisa McKnight, Barbie senior vice president and general manager. “Girls have always been able to play out different roles and careers with Barbie and we are thrilled to shine a light on real-life role models to remind them that they can be anything.”

Mattel wasn’t the only brand to celebrate strong women. Uber published a short film called “#DrivenWomen take the wheel,” highlighting the real-life stories of female drivers who challenge sexist stereotypes. The film was released in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Taiwan, promoting the freedom of driving and the way that flexible working can empower women.

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#DrivenWomen by Uber
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Birchbox similarly used a film to showcase what confidence means to women and girls around the world with the hashtag #Bringforthyourworth. The film was created by Valerie Shenkman, a Glamour #NewViewfilm winner. Nike launched “Until We All Win”, featuring Serena Williams, in the Oscars ad break this year. The powerful video focuses on the multifaceted ways to “be a woman,” and what it has taken for Williams to succeed.

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“Until We All Win”, featuring Serena Williams for Nike

J. Walter Thompson teamed up with Period Equity to draw attention to the 36 US states that still collect sales tax on tampons and pads, producing a range of provocative images and GIFs to demonstrate that periods are not a luxury and should not be taxed as though they were. This campaign follows the satirical advert produced in 2017 with American model and actress Amber Rose.

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Period Equity in collaboration with J. Walter Thompson

However not all International Women’s Day campaigns have been well received. McDonald’s is facing backlash for inverting the famous golden arches to promote Women’s Day despite allegedly still underpaying staff and ignoring claims of sexual harassment. Mattel has also been criticized for failing to portray its inspirational role models realistically, underplaying Frida Kahlo’s familiar unibrow and making Olympic boxer Nicola Adams look “too skinny.”

For two-thirds of consumers, according to a January 2018 survey by social media management and analytics company Sprout Social, it is important that brands take a stand on social and political issues. However, to remain credible, brands must think carefully about how they express support and take a stand, as the public will call out blatant publicity stunts.

McDonald's 'M' logo is turned upside down in honour of International Women's Day in Lynwood
McDonald's 'M' logo is turned upside down in honour of International Women's Day. Courtesy McDonald's/Handout via REUTERS
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