Women’s issues aren’t just for women
When Katy and I set out to write our book Wonder Women, we wanted to celebrate the amazing contributions that women have made to marketing in all its shapes and forms. We also wanted to review what have often been labelled ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ characteristics and see what role marketers felt they should play in the future. We were clear from the outset that we do not seek to denigrate men. In fact, we want to engage both men and women equally.
At our launch event, which was hosted by the Marketing Society, we were delighted that about 120 people joined the session. Our panel of two women and one man were excellent at telling some of their stories and making some important points.
Afterwards, looking at who had joined the session, we saw that it was only 17 men and were a little disappointed by this percentage.
The following week, I joined The Female Lead webinar launch of their “Close the Entitlement Gap” research findings. It was attended by several hundred people and, while I don’t have the figures, it was clear that there were very few men on the webinar. I joked about it on the chat and, while made to feel very welcome, it was noticeable that only 1 or 2 other men participated.
It made Katy and I think about why this might be the case and having discussed we come to the theory that, for some men, not all but a reasonable proportion of them, have seen the improvements that have happened in the attitude and behaviours towards women. They know about equal pay legislation and the changes to maternity and parental leave, and they think it’s all over now.
People who know me will recognize that I’m deliberately being a bit provocative, and I do want to provoke a response and start a debate.
Many men we have spoken to have been very supportive, and the women we interviewed talked about men who had been role models and an inspiration for them. Women see future successful marketers as having not just what are often labelled female characteristics, but the advantages of a combination of “masculine” and “feminine” thinking and behaviours.
Some men, however, said things that made us think that, for them, it was perhaps yesterday’s problem.
Equality still isn’t a given, whether that’s in terms of pay and/or behaviours. We didn’t investigate salaries but know from other surveys there is still a gap.
We did hear about examples still happening today where women who, despite being the most senior in their team, are ‘expected to pour the coffee’. We heard about women who, when pregnant, were continually asked, “Are you coming back to work?”, “How will you cope?”, while their husbands got no such questions.
We know that “Motherhood” – and I’m deliberately using that word rather than parenthood, because it is still the majority of women who play the dominant role in bringing up children and managing the household – is often a brake that slows down a woman’s progress.
This is particularly discouraging because we heard time and time again how becoming a parent, a mother, made our interviewees learn new skills and more about themselves, and equip themselves to be better leaders.
We want everyone to realise that the struggle for equality isn’t over and ‘women’s issues’ aren’t just good for women there are good for marketing and its successful future. We want all men not just to nod in agreement but to engage and where appropriate take action.
Personally, I’m proud to call myself a feminist but also proud to try and actually do something to make it a level playing field. As the old phrase goes action speak louder than words.
“Wonder Women – Inspiring Stories & Insightful Interviews” by Giles Lury and Katy Mousinho, is available from Amazon, LID Publishing and The Book Depository in paperback and e-book.