McDonald’s flips arches to honour International Women’s Day — but it backfires

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McDonald’s flipped its famous golden arches in honour of International Women’s Day Thursday, but the move didn’t exactly resonate online.

The fast-food chain switched its social media profile photos to the “W” logo for one day, along with signage outside one California location. In a press release, the company noted that 100 U.S. locations will be participating with flipped-logo packaging and uniforms for workers.


It explained that the move was to “celebrate the women who have chosen McDonald’s to be a part of their story.” McDonald’s also boasted that 62 per cent of its U.S. workers, and six out of 10 managers, are women.

But those numbers, in this case, don’t tell the full story, many social media users pointed out using the hashtag #McFeminism.

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The hashtag #McFeminism has been used in the past to criticize companies who use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to feminism, which often consists of symbolic gestures rather than real change.

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In McDonald’s case, the issue largely revolves around paying workers higher wages and providing better working conditions, such as more consistent shifts.

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In 2016, the corporation was also accused of ignoring sexual harassment allegations, which included groping and lewd comments, put forward by workers in the U.S. One employee said she was offered $1,000 from her boss in exchange for oral sex. Thirteen of the complaints were by women, and two were by men.

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Beatrix Dart, executive director at the University of Toronto’s Initiative for Women in Business, explained that while those criticizing McDonald’s have valid points, the company deserves some credit.

“A lot of companies do more symbolic things on International Women’s Day. Is that extremely helpful, maybe not, but at least they’re recognizing International Women’s Day.”

Dart added that McDonald’s Canada, in particular, has a fairly diverse senior executive team, meaning they do “walk the walk” along with symbolic gestures.

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In an email to Global News, McDonald’s Canada said women make up more than 50 per cent of its corporate workforce, and almost half of senior leadership positions.

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While the flipped signage isn’t in Canada, women are still being recognized for their “extraordinary contribution” to the company, the email stated.

Different women face unique challenges

McDonald’s does have room for improvement when it comes to working conditions and wages, Dart said. She added that often corporations that are diverse and have women in leadership roles still lack resources for those in lower-paying jobs.

“I think we have to start differentiating more when we talk about gender issues, what type of categories we are addressing,” she said.

Dart noted that the same type of nuanced approach is needed for different sectors and industries — for example, the mining sector faces different challenges than the retail sector.

— With files from Reuters