BMO wants to literally change how we talk about women and money

The bank's latest work on financial equality centres on a petition to eliminate terms like "gold digger" from the dictionary.
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BMO is addressing the way we talk about women, girls and money by trying to literally change our vocabulary.

The bank has launched online petition aimed at eliminating gendered, discriminatory language like “gold digger” and “shopaholic” from the dictionary.

The change.org petition is at the focal point of BMO’s latest campaign created by FCB Canada. Launched on Sunday to coincide with International Day of the Girl, the campaign features “Jane” – the main character in BMO’s International Women’s Day campaign from earlier this year – in two spots that show her encountering gendered terms in her day-to-day life.

“It’s important that we use our platform to break down the barriers to inclusion, and language is one of those barriers and [to] ensure that everyone has equal access to the financial system,” says Jennifer Carli, VP head of brand and social media at BMO Financial Group.

BMO has previously focused efforts around International Women’s Day on advancing women in business, but this year took a bigger look at how the way people talk about finance and who handles major decisions can make girls feel like they are ill-equipped when it comes to money. This update for International Day of the Girl zeroed in a bit more on language, as Carli says during the research and development phase, the brand heard from several women who’d experienced, on multiple occasions, unconscious bias and gendered discriminatory language in their lives when it came to money and spending.

“It’s not one time,” Carli says. “It’s the cumulative unconscious effect of language and words that we use with women and girls that, over time, erodes their self-confidence when it comes to finances and investing.”

The other thing that has been added to this campaign is a clear call to action, which not only brings awareness to the harmful effects language can have on women, but also provides a vehicle for change.

“What makes this [campaign] different is that it’s not words on paper – it’s walking the talk,” Carli says. “It’s not words, it’s actions. It’s not hollow promises, it’s taking a stand. If we can redefine or remove these terms, maybe the stereotypes can be eliminated along with them.”

In terms of its own actions, BMO is the executive sponsor of Plan International Canada’s “Girls Belong Here” program for the third straight year, which will see the brand’s executives stepping down for the day and having young BIPOC women take their role virtually, to highlight and address the needs and challenges they face. Internally, 41% of its senior leadership roles are filled by women, compared to the average of 26% for other S&P 500 companies, and BMO is in the midst of its “Zero Barriers to Inclusion 2025,” a multi-year strategy that supports equity and inclusion for employees, customers and the communities it operates in.

Carli says one of the key business priorities for BMO has been driving an understanding of the brand’s purpose – to grow the good in both business and life. She adds that work like this campaign is “designed to demonstrate those values in action,” by striving to have a more diverse, inclusive and understanding economy and society.

UM handled the media buy for the paid social campaign, which is running across North America.