In honor of Business Women’s Day, I felt the need to highlight one of the ongoing struggles our marketing industry is facing. It’s one that is not exclusive to advertising folk, it filters into most sectors. It’s that of gender stereotyping.
Last week we saw a surprising brand tie-up between Cosmopolitan and Seat to launch a car ‘for women’. It was disappointing. Not because a female magazine is partnering with a car company, but because Cosmo should know it’s audience better. Mascara lidded headlights is patronising and dated. I can’t imagine any ambitious, professional Millennial putting that feature on the top of her want list for a new car! Cosmopolitan has always championed the female strength in all parts of life, from business to family, but this is more reminiscent of 1950s Mad Men advertising, than a savvy partnership with forward thinking brands.
We can think back to the BiC pen ‘For Her’ debacle, which unleashed legions of women to write sarcastic reviews on Amazon, and unwittingly proving in the process that women can be interesting writers (unless that was the point, in which case bravo BiC!!).
Statistics concede on the matter. Recent Unilever research highlights that 40% of women don’t recognise themselves in the ads they see and analysis showed that 50% of ads show a negative or ‘not progressive’ stereotype of women. The report also found that 71% of women think brands should be accountable for the positive images they portray about women. Google asked 5,000 women in the UK how they feel about stereotyping and discrimination and 49% felt discriminated personally, whilst 35% experienced discrimination in the workplace. And younger women (18-34 year olds) felt that discrimination is getting worse.
We still have far to go to stamp out the age-old gender stereotypes. Marketeers, client-side or agency, who work on brands targeting women have a responsibility to make sure they understand their audience and smash stereotypes. We’re still not doing enough to challenge them. It’s about intelligent consumer insights and smart strategic and creative thinking. And our industry is saturated with brilliant agencies and talented marketeers, so what’s going on?
By Jo Davies, CEO, ZAK