Faaez Samadi
Jun 21, 2017

Gender diversity: Make it the norm with better marketing

A panel of C-suite executives discussed the power marketing has to shape consumer mindsets, and how it can be put to good use in fighting for gender equality.

Panellists at the #SeeHer marketer's roundtable
Panellists at the #SeeHer marketer's roundtable

The marketing and advertising industry can make gender equality the norm if it wants to, but the movement must include both women and men to succeed, said Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer for P&G.

Speaking yesterday as part of a marketers’ roundtable organised at Cannes Lions 2017 by The Female Quotient and #SeeHer, Pritchard said many brands are making steady progress with tackling gender diversity, but the real change will come when marketers work to “make it normal, not a special occasion thing for a Superbowl ad”.

“We have to start thinking about positive role models, and not just for women," he said, making reference to the company's renowned advert for Ariel in India. "A positive role model for men is someone sharing the load.” 

“We need to have it [gender equality] in normal, everyday advertising," he continued. "Showing men being good role models is as powerful as women. Why don’t men take paternity leave? Because it’s not normal. We need to make it normal.”

Almost every panellist quoted statistics showing that as well as being a moral necessity, gender diversity makes supreme business sense. Fiona Carter, chief brand officer at AT&T, the second-largest advertiser in the US, said internal research showed that brand ads with a higher GEM [Gender Equality Measure] score resulted in 17 percent higher brand recall, and 8.5 percent better brand reputation.

“We know we’re culture-shaping,” Carter said. “So we now use GEM scores in copytesting all of our advertising. Gender diversity is a business imperative.”

Carter added that there is still lots of work to do, and that she “wasn’t going to pretend all the advertising scores highly [with GEM]”, but it is all part of the process.

Keith Weed, CMO at Unilever, said research showed that advertising “still has some bizarre stereotypes about what gender looks like,” with only 3 percent of ads showing women in a leadership position, and just 1 percent showing women with a sense of humour.

“We’re playing back outdated stereotypes to society,” he said. “They’re lazy shortcuts.”

In terms of what brands can do to make gender diversity a core tenet of their identity, Debra Bass, president of global marketing services at Johnson & Johnson, said we should start with the “low-hanging fruit”.

“That’s using GEM as part of your evaluation system and letting your agencies know, because money talks. Take the issue to the senior leadership and make sure they understand the value they are getting from it.

“Also, people like to look at rankings, and no one likes to be at the bottom, which is wonderful when you’re trying to make change happen.” 

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