As part of writing the book we did lots of reading around the subject and compiled a further reading list of books we found interesting, insightful and thought-provoking. These are detailed at the end of the book and some are referenced in the introduction, stories, interviews and thoughts & insights. We don’t necessarily agree with what all of the authors argue, but that is part of exploring a topic. In this section of the website, we’re embarking on writing reviews on some of the books we referenced as well as new ones we are reading.
BLIND SPOTS – (R.J.) Bec Brideson
While Katy and I would love you to read our book we recognize that there are lots of other books around the topic that are well worth reading too. (R.J.) Bec Brideson’s “Blind Spots” is one of them and here is the review I wrote of it for the Marketing Society a few years ago.
Given this is a book about how many businesses still don’t get the importance of women to their future success, given it highlights the need to see that opportunity through a female lens, and given that it’s written by a very successful women who founded and ran an agency which specialised in marketing to women, you can understand that I am a little nervous when coming to review it.
However, whatever gender you are, there is lots to like in the book.
Bec Brideson (who deliberately chooses to hide her gender on the cover using her initials R.J. instead) makes a powerful case for the future importance of women to the success of your business.
The need to avoid the old premise of “think pink and shrink”.
“The century of women should be an anticipatory culture, looking towards the future and pre-empting the needs of women rather than reacting to them once they have had to complain, ask, or give up and try elsewhere. This would reflect a business that is female-lensed and that purposefully acknowledges and adjusts to the new perspectives and different needs of women.”
She builds on the work done by Boston Consulting Group’s Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, the co-authors of Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market (HarperCollins, 2009).
She tackles some of the myths that exist in too many approaches to marketing to women. In ‘Myth 2 – We’re equal opportunity – Tick!’, she makes the very valid point that “Segmenting male and female markets is not discrimination; actually it’s the opposite. It is about being more sensitive to each gender through a concerted effort to understand them better.”
She provides guidelines on getting to better results: a three stage process that starts with “more heart and less head” research.
It moves onto re-imagining your business culture – internally and externally:
“Don’t make feelings something women bring to work but then have to hide in the bottom drawer with their handbag”.
The final section is developing a strong gender-intelligent blueprint in which Brideson uses an analogy with renovating a house, rightly to mind, recognising that “many parts of the existing business will be retailed and even enhanced”.
I do have a couple of minor concerns
The first of which is that an awful lot of emphasis is given to the statistic “Women make up 85% of consumer purchases”; nowhere, however, is this really clarified. Is this complete control or influence? Is this based on behaviour or is it claimed?
Despite searching on the internet for a while I can’t find a definite answer, though I did find a few people trying to find the answers to my questions. Having said that, this does not negate the overall point as other statistics show “Globally, they [women] control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. Their $13 trillion in total yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion in the same period.
In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined—more than twice as big,” Silverstein and Sayre.
The second one was that I felt that too many of the case histories played to the more stereotypical ‘women’s markets’ – DeBeers (jewellery), Dove (Beauty), Ariel (laundry).
While these cases make good points about adopting a female lens, I wanted more about other categories like the Shetab (taxi) and AFL (sports). I wanted more financial services and technological brand examples.
However, if more people adopt the thinking in the book, hopefully there will be more examples to be quoted
THE HOME STRETCH – Sally Howard
Why it’s time to come clean about who does the dishes
Forty years of feminism and still women do the majority of the housework
I read Sally Howard’s Home Stretch in March 2020 during Lockdown One, and ever since I have been stealing Sally’s line about how women will never be able to smash the glass ceiling when they can’t get off the sticky floor. The book’s premise is that as long as women take on a disproportionate amount of the domestic work, they will never to able to rise in the workplace.
Whilst Covid may be opening up more flexible working patterns which could benefit women in the long term, in the short/medium term it really does feel like we’re going backwards, with women taking on the brunt of the domestic work, childcare and home schooling, leaving them little physical and mental time for themselves and putting huge pressure on their own work, education and well-being.
This makes Sally’s book even more of an essential read than it was a year ago! It is a well-researched, informative, thought-provoking read and full of eye-opening statistics. The book is backed up by an international survey, from which qualitative comments are excerpted throughout.
Sally writes frankly, accessibly and with humour about the development of feminism and the attendant difficulties of the Double Day or Second Shift, where working mums still pick up the domestic slack in a way that doesn’t seem to happen to working dads.
Despite the advances made towards equality, in most households across the world the vast majority of housework is done by women. Even in homes where both partners work full-time, women put in more hours towards domestic chores. And once children come along, the disparity of effort made between the sexes gets worse, with many women effectively putting in a double shift.
Then there is also the mental and emotional work which is truly hidden and underappreciated – knowing what needs doing and when; remembering birthdays (and buying and writing the cards and wrapping the gifts); deciding what to cook; knowing what’s in the fridge and larder; what time is child pick-up; etc. – the list goes on and on.
Although shocking, the physical and mental load undertaken by women didn’t really surprise me as we’re all still working hard to shake off the gender roles that we’ve been brainwashed by since childhood.
What shocked me most, however, was Sally insight that by outsourcing household work (especially a cleaner), we are reinforcing the gender roles. Most cleaners are women – and often low paid!
My career spanned the 1980s – 2010s when I was also raising a family, and I firmly believe I could never have done it without my amazing support system of a cleaner, a nanny, grandmothers, and female friends who helped me out. I’m now really concerned for my feminist conscience! Sally notes, incredibly, “there are more live-in domestic workers in London today than there were in the 1890s.”
Turning to how we might “reboot the stalled domestic revolution”, Sally argues “many of the great successes of feminism have come in moments when boots were on the ground”. For example, the legendary 1975 women’s general strike in Iceland, in which 90 percent of adult women left their jobs and families to march in the streets, led to equal gender pay rights being enshrined in Icelandic law a year later.
Maybe Covid is our chance to reboot.
THE SQUIGGLY CAREER – Helen Tupper & Sarah Ellis
Is your career squiggly?
I listened to The Squiggly Career on Audible. I was intrigued by the title as it reflects the way I approached my career – it changed direction completely at the age of 30, then zig-zagged while I was bringing up a family and am now entering a brand-new phase in my third age. Careers are changing; they are no longer linear and there’s no such thing as a ‘job for life’. Squiggly careers, where people jump constantly between roles, industries and locations, are becoming the new normal and have the benefit of enabling you to explore possibilities.
The book talks about 5 skills you need for your Squiggly Career. I particularly loved the advice on identifying not just your Strengths, but your Super Strengths; knowing what you’re great at will help you enjoy your work, attract interesting opportunities and be part of more productive teams. So, focus on Super Strengths and don’t worry about weaknesses.
The chapter on Confidence gives some practical advice on addressing your gremlins – your own self-limiting beliefs – that really struck a chord! It also talks about resilience and the ability to bounce back. As I started my career in the 80s, I learnt quickly to be resilient as there wasn’t as much workplace empathy, support and flexibility. Building resilience is as relevant today as it’s ever been – especially in our super-fast changing world.
Another key take-out was the new world of Networks and building your own ‘support solar system’ – it’s all about people helping people, developing meaningful relationships and embracing diverse perspectives. This approach to networking is totally liberating, where introverts as well as extroverts can grow and thrive; online networks, smaller breakfast meetings and seminars enable sharing of ideas and experiences in an easy and collaborative environment.
The final chapter is about exploring Future Opportunities and identifies 3 up and coming career skills; curiosity – make it a habit, feedback – seek it regularly, don’t just wait for it to be given at your annual review, and grit – anyone who’s read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ will identify with the 10,000 hours principle; “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.”
Listening to the book made me think differently about the traditional definition of ‘career’. I have made a shift away from a full-time career with one company so I can follow a range of passions and interests, some paid, some unpaid – all very squiggly! The book is certainly work a read or listen to, there’s also a podcast.
We’d love to hear your views if this has struck a chord.
WORK LIKE A WOMAN – Mary Portas
Whilst writing Wonder Women in Marketing we did lots of reading and have included a Further Reading section in the book. One of the books is Mary Portas’ book ‘Work like a Woman – A Manifesto for Change’. She argues we need to move away from outdated alpha male cultures in business. The system isn’t working for women, it’s probably not working for many men and it’s unlikely to work for Milllenials and iGens.
In the alpha male working culture success is defined by working long hours, risk taking, competitive behaviour, ruthlessness, logical thinking, control, money and status, ‘it’s business not personal’, maximisation of profits, hiding emotions – and choosing work as a priority over family and leisure.
Women may aspire to leadership, but they don’t want to become leaders in this environment, so it’s hardly surprising that we’re not moving the needle.
To be relevant to the ever-changing needs of the workforce in the 21st century, we need to shift the norms and develop business cultures that enable greater flexibility, where success is also defined by collaborative working, good listening, willingness to learn, transparency, emotional intelligence – and a balanced and full life.
To quote Mary Portas : “It’s about learning to value the power of feminine characteristics, embracing them in the way we work and blending the best of both genders to make us all more productive, powerful and in harmony”