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Super Bowl Ads: Is Audi's Pay Equality Message Diluted by its Leadership

Audi’s commercial that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday was one of the evening’s most talked about ads, both in the amount of praise it received as well as criticism.


While many people applauded Audi for supporting equal pay for equal work, the criticism was twofold: people denying the fact women earn less, and that Audi’s efforts seem hypocritical due to its board of directors being exclusively male.

In the commercial titled “Daughter,” you hear the thoughts of a father watching his daughter cart race with boys:

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 Or, maybe, I’ll be able to tell her something different.

Some denied, on social media, that there is income inequality in relation to gender.

Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder tweeted:

Another user called it “feminist propaganda”:

The gender pay gap is not “fake news”; it has been well-documented.According to Pew Research Center, women across all races and ethnicities earn less than white men, and men in their own racial or ethnic group.

However, in 2015, Asian and white women ($18 and $17, respectively) earned higher hourly wages than Black women and Latinas ($13 and $12, respectively) and also higher than those of Black men and Latinos.

Asian women earned 87 cents per dollar earned by a white man in 2015, white women 82 cents per dollar, Black women 65 cents per dollar and Latinas 58 cents per dollar.

The American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) research, “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap,” states:

“At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.”

Board Diversity

Prior to Super Bowl Sunday, Audi tweeted its commercial February 1 with the following statement: “Women are still paid 21% less than men. As a brand that believes in progress, we are committed to equal pay for equal work. #DriveProgress.”

On the surface, Audi’s commercial can be seen as an empowering statement.

As journalist Gretchen Carlson tweeted:

But after taking a closer look at Audi’s practices, Twitter users called out the company’s own lack of gender diversity:

Audi, which is headquartered in Ingolstadt, Germany, has a board of directors that is all male and white, and also appears to lack diversity in regard to age. Progress also means reflecting diversity, inclusion and gender equity in board leadership.

Related Story: PwC Survey: Men, Women Directors View the Value of Diversity Differently

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (No. 5onthe DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversitylist) annual corporate survey, published in October, questioned more than 800 corporate directors of public companies. Of the participants, 71 percent serve on the boards of companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

When breaking down the statistics between the male and female respondents, a disparity in perspectives is revealed:

  • Women directors are much more likely to think board diversity improves company performance 89 percent compared to 24 percent of men.
  • Women directors overwhelmingly believe board diversity improves board effectiveness 92 percent versus 38 percent of men.

DiversityInc Top 50 survey data found a correlation between women representation on boards and diversity-management performance. The DiversityInc Top 50, on average, has 34 percent more women on its boards than all other participating companies.

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer told DiversityInc his office and New York City Pension Funds advocate for board diversity.

“Women currently represent 21 percent of S&P 500 directors, a number that is rising at a glacial pace,” Stringer said. “The message we are sending to corporate boards is that they need to move aggressively to nominate more diverse directors, or risk investors doing it ourselves.”

He said his office launched the Boardroom Accountability Project in November 2014 “to give long-term investors the right to nominate directors using the company ballot, known as proxy access.”

In January New York City Pension Funds filed 72 new shareowner resolutions calling on companies to adopt meaningful proxy access bylaws. Since November 2014, the number of companies with these bylaws has increased from 6 to 115.

The PwC survey found that by the end of the 2016 proxy season, more than 40 percent of the S&P 500 had adopted a proxy access by law, compared to less than 1 percent two years earlier.

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