Shell is giving itself a temporary name change for International Women’s Day, a move that—while part of a larger effort to highlight women in leadership at the company—has been mocked and criticized by many in social media today for seeming insincere.
At one Shell station in San Dimas, Calif., the brand will replace its logo with one saying “She’ll” to mark Sunday’s global day of recognition for women. The location was chosen for the activation because it is owned and operated by women who are, according to a statement about the campaign, “the largest distributors of Shell branded oil in the state of California,”
Carrie Philpott, president of agency Wunderman Thompson Atlanta, said in a statement that she hopes the campaign will “continue to position Shell as a brand that supports and is invested in their female workforce. International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to shed light on this issue and Shell’s commitment.”
As the “She’ll” activation circulated on Twitter today with an image of a gas pump with the temporary logo change, Shell’s effort was largely mocked and denounced for seeming opportunistic or insincere.
Things got especially confusing when satirical activist group The Yes Men, which has trolled petroleum companies in the past, took credit on Twitter for the “She’ll” activation for International Women’s Day and said it was a hoax of their own creation.
However, Adweek confirmed with Wunderman Thompson on Friday afternoon that the campaign and pump design mockup are real.
Before the mockery and hoax claims kicked in, Shell had intended to highlight its efforts at elevating women in leadership and across its industry, calling the move “just the beginning as the company hopes to be the fuel for inspiration,” per a statement by Wunderman Thompson.
Last year, the Petroleum Equipment and Services Association reported that women account for only 15% of the oil and gas workforce.
On Shell’s website, the initiatives that it has taken to educate, develop and engage women in their workplace are specifically delineated. The company highlights its leadership and networking programs for women, such as Women’s Career Development, Senior Women Connect and Gender Gap Stories. From 2012 to 2017, Shell said, its female representation in senior leadership positions has risen from 16% to 22%.
Gretchen Watkins, the current U.S. CEO for Shell, is the second women to hold the title in the brand’s history. She has been in the role since the summer of 2018.
The brand’s “She Will” short film, which highlights the company’s work toward a gender-balanced workplace, was intended to be shared across Shell’s social media accounts.