Equal. Not.

I was approached by Equal to promote their product for free. Their parent company, Merisant’s revenue totaled $232 million in 2012. My response…

From: Anne
Sent: Thursday, 13 June 2013 8:30 PM

To: Catherine
Subject: Invitation for Catherine, to debate the choices Australian women make


We would like to invite you to join a community of influential Australian Women who will participate in a debate about the choices Australian women make.

You may be familiar with Equal, the sweetener? Equal is moving toward more natural ways, and has launched Equal Naturals made from Stevia. This means Equal is now both an artificial and a natural sweetener…which is ok because like Australian Women, we’re comfortable with making contradictory choices. Equal believes there is no right or wrong, and is now demonstrating this via exploring the choices we make on equalchoice.com.au.

Equalchoice.com.au will be launched late August 2013. It will be a space where we invite Catherine and other influential Australian women to debate topics.

We’ll post 30+ topics that range from the controversial, frivolous to serious. For example:

Ageing…fight it or let it happen gracefully?

Politics…addictive or aggravating?

Legal drinking age…fine as is or should be raised?

Marriage equality…universal or sacrilegious?

Boat people…genuine threat or seeking asylum?

Childbirth…drugs please or drug-free?

Botox…wonderful or woeful?

We’ll publicise these topics and your contribution, and invite all Australian women to join the online debate. We’re hosting 2 live debates (similar to TED.com format) to which you’re welcome to join the debating panel. What’s more, if you would like to be available for media interviews or to launch trending topics, let us know and we’ll incorporate you into our PR plan.

Unfortunately Equal cannot offer you cash for comment. However in exchange for your time, we will promote your contribution and profile alongside other influential Australian women such as Deborah Thomas, who has already agreed to take part.

Catherine, you are is our top 10 list of women we’d love to work with, so if you think this would interest you please call me on 0401 XXX XXX or reply to the above email.

Many thanks in advance,


From: Catherine
Sent: Thursday, 13 June 2013 8:40 PM
To: Anne
Subject: Invitation for Catherine, to debate the choices Australian women make

Hi Anne,

Great to get your email.  And when I say great, I mean hilarious.

Just one question. Why would I work for a multinational chemical company for free?

Do you?

How incredibly unprofessional to develop an advertising budget where you do not pay for the content. And how rude to ask people to work for nothing.

Did you pay the graphic designer? The web developer? The internet provider? Do you pay for the petrol in your car? Your hairdresser?

This is my job.

Joining a debate about the choices women make?

Here’s the choice I make. Not to work for multinationals for free. Or any businesses. I am a single mum and I pay every single person who works for me.

Women are 50% of the population, do two thirds of the work, earn 10% of the money and  own 1% of the property.

And you have the gall to frame this opportunity to work for free as some kind of feminist jamboree. And why we are on gall, promoting a dieting aid with feminism? Excuse me while I throw up in my mouth. Sorry what? It’s about health, lifestyle and choices. No it’s not. It’s about selling dissatisfication and self loathing. I think you’ve picked the wrong girl.

You don’t give a rats about women, if you did you would not ask them to work for free. YOU WOULD PAY THEM.

How patronising and unprofessional.

So Deborah Thomas is working for free? Yeah, right. And I’m Delta Goodrem.

I will make sure everyone in my network hears about this.

And by the way, it’s not called ‘cash for comment’. That’s a judgemental term suggesting corruption. It’s called paying people.

‘Exposure’ don’t pay the rent.

I look forward to your response.


From: Anne
Sent: Friday, 14 June 2013 7:40 AM
To: Catherine
Subject: Invitation for Catherine, to debate the choices Australian women make

Hi Catherine,

You’re right, and I apologise for offending you and not being fair.

I totally agree with your comments below, I do care about women, and no one should work for free.

I will let my Client know that we’re being patronising and unprofessional. Every person who works on this project has to be paid fairly.

I’ll also contact the other women I’ve reached out to and apologise, I’ll let them know they’ll be paid.

It’s my mistake for asking. I’ll let you know how things progress,


From: Catherine
Sent: Friday, 14 June 2013 7:40 AM
To: Anne
Subject: Invitation for Catherine, to debate the choices Australian women make

Thank you very much for your response. I am puzzled as to how the campaign got this far without the thought of paying women.



I was tempted to take the post down after such a classy response from Anne. But I want people to see what calling it out looks like, what can happen and to see what an excellent corporate response looks like.

When groups justify asking me for working for free by saying they are ‘non profit’ I respond by saying ‘I’m non profit’ as well. Non profit does not mean that have no money. Non profit does NOT mean unpaid.

Last year I was offered paid work and refused on the grounds that others were not being paid. The company changed tune and paid everyone.

I’m more than happy to work for free (and constantly do) for charities, artists, state schools, endeavours where no one is getting paid and individuals (personal mentoring, writing guidance, interviews for assignments, short films, painters, photographers etc) and I work for cost for not for profit. Because Not For Profit does NOT mean unpaid.

But I will not work for free for businesses.




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