Marketers may think there's nothing wrong with an all-male marketing team working on campaigns and programs aimed at women, especially if focus groups and research efforts include representatives of this segment of 50.8 percent of the U.S. population with trillions of dollars of buying power. However, more female marketers are coming forward to say that's a bad idea. In the best-case scenario, women may portray themselves to marketers in an idealized manner that perpetuates stereotypes. In a worst-case scenario, some deeper problems can emerge.
In the case of the former situation, Katherine Wintsch—founder and CEO of the Mom Complex—says women who are mothers "have a long-standing tendency of portraying themselves in a romanticized manner—raving about their obedient children, helpful husbands and spotless homes."
In the article she wrote on Feb. 13 for the Wall Street Journal, she asks, "Marketing To Moms, Why Is The Bar Set So Low?" She proposes three steps marketers can take to raise the bar. A fourth comes from a former mobile tech firm worker:
1. Take the Velvet Gloves Off. Stop treating mothers as saints, she writes. Their lives can be messy, frantic and filled with uncertainty. "Take a page from Old Spice's book and realize that owning a provocative insight (moms don't want their boys to become men) can help open the aperture to more provocative executions," Wintsch says.
2. Don't Let Moms Posture. "Stop putting moms in focus groups and start treating them like co-brand managers before advertising is ever developed," she writes.
3. Drop the Formula. "Let's have … digital platforms that actually help create an easier life, not just depict it," Wintsch writes.
4. Hire Women. A consumer packaged goods manufacturer might've sent out an app aimed at moms that would've required both hands to operate, but she mentioned to the mobile tech firm app creators when she worked for that company that mothers rarely have both hands free, writes Kayla Green, the director of digital strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, in a Feb. 25 article in CampaignLive.com
Regarding the latter scenario, discrimination based on gender in Silicon Valley made headlines Tuesday in the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers trial. Marketers, who are increasingly depending on tech emerging from this hub, are finding out that from venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins to the startups they fund, decisions may be occurring that don't favor women—even in the products and services they produce for marketers.
In the case of Pao, Kleiner Perkins' attitude toward its former partner may have cost marketers useful tools. In fall 2007, Pao recommended the firm invest in Twitter. But even as her recommendation got shot down, "Kleiner's top brass was focusing big bets on money-losing green-tech investments such as Fisker and Bloom Energy," TechCrunch writes on Monday. The article also mentions Pao, now the interim CEO of reddit, "led Kleiner's sourcing and investments in RPX, which went public; Datameer, a going concern in the Hadoop and big data space; and social reading app Flipboard."
USA Today reports on Tuesday: "Earlier in the trial, Kleiner senior partner John Doerr had been quoted as saying that Pao had 'a female chip on her shoulder.' "
OK, marketers may ask, even if Pao is justified, that's not happening in the tech industry that supplies marketers, right? Or the channels?
In an infographic recently published by Information Is Beautiful, Pinterest particularly stood out. The social media network that 42 percent of all online women use and 13 percent of online men, according to January 2015 numbers from the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of employees are women. The focus is shifting to attract more men to the network that now has a 71 percent female user base among its 72.5 million visitors in the U.S., reports TechCrunch in January 2015.
Still, on Monday, Jessica Twentyman of diginomica acknowledges that women hold top leadership positions in tech firms such as IBM, HP and Oracle. Plus, Intel pledges $300 million to boost its workforce diversity by 2020.
"But the experience of working in an industry isn't defined solely by its high-profile appointments and its flagship initiatives," Twentyman writes. "The speech and behavior of the rank-and-file count for a lot, too. Think, for example, about 'brogrammer' humor and GamerGate's rape threats. Think about the grubbier details of alleged harassment emerging from Ellen Pao's gender discrimination case against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. And don't forget about 'booth babes'—a seemingly immutable aspect of the IT conference scene."
Twentyman quotes Shellye Archambeau, CEO at governance, risk and compliance software company MetricStream as saying "there's no question" diversity plays into business outcomes.
"But we all have a responsibility for making this happen, for holding companies to account," Archambeau tells Twentyman. "Many of us are investors. All of us are customers. We all need to be asking questions of companies and help raise their awareness, so that they start doing what you'd expect them to do."
Marketers who target female consumers, how important is including women in your decision-making processes?
Please respond in the comments section below.