This week, I was gratified and honored that my good friend Sheila Riggs, who is one of the most accomplished people I know (notice I didn’t say “women”), invited me to a lovely networking lunch of powerful executives, the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable. This was a roomful of remarkable individuals – current, future and former CEOs of powerful corporations and entrepreneurs. We were there to hear Delta Airline’s CEO Edward Bastian speak about the airline business. This event stands out starkly against the backdrop of all the news around the balance of power with women in recent times – the push for equal pay and other things. And, because of this, I experienced some insights into the normal, dissonant experiences that women encounter along the way of our everyday lives.
There are overt as well as subtle ways that women are treated differently than men. I made a point in the paragraph above of talking about accomplished people. Earlier this week I read a business article about the increase in women (and men) running for political office. The writer dubbed this increase in women running a “pink wave”. Really? Can you imagine someone calling a wave of men in politics a “baby-blue wave”.
Then later, I read a thoughtful article about marketing to women. Ironically written by a man. Sadly, there is a part of me who believes he probably has more credibility on the subject than an equally qualified marketer who is actually a woman. In positioning his advice on marketing to women he states, “For a long time, the average American guy represented us all.” Herein lies the rub. We are conditioned as a culture to think of men as the norm and think of women as an inexplicable stereotype.
This is not about blaming all of women’s woes on men. No, I respect and appreciate men. But we have all been raised in a culture where men have credibility and women have – well, learned to get along, thereby unwittingly playing along with the inequity.
So, as a marketer, I believe it’s time for marketers to understand – in this one-to-one world – that women (and men) are not the stereotype, women are not an amorphous blob of like thinkers and we are not defined by the color pink. It’s time marketers treat women as the capable, smart, insightful and diverse individuals we are. My advice: leave the pink out of the marketing, do research to understand what your audience wants and needs from your brand and learn how to market to individuals rather than exploiting stereotyped concepts. Let’s make a pact to end marketing stereotypes. If you can’t put yourself in a woman’s shoes, please don’t try to wear them.