The Lab’s Big Picture Session: The Century Of Women?

October 30, 2013

On Tuesday night (29th October 2013), we saw the second of The Lab’s Big Session event, tackling head on the theme of if we are truly entering the ‘Century of Women?’ 

We had some fantastic insights from our expert panel; Catherine Fox, Melina Cruickshank, Guy Vicars and Associate Professor Rita Wilson, with the debates ran long into the night! 

From the left: Sarah Lorimer (The Lab), Melina Cruickshank, Catherine Fox, Guy Vicars and Associate Professor Rita Wilson.

The debate began with the recognition that we are in a time of flux, and the more friction we see, the more we realise change is happening, whether we like it or not. The tipping point was passed long ago, (when women got to vote Catherine suggested) but we are still dealing with, and negotiating the consequences of women entering more spheres of life, and what this means for identity, life and balance.

Catherine pointed out the stark economic reality that women face, for example being $1M worse off when they retire, raising questions of how can we start to tackle equality when the financial and political systems are premised on a single, and out-dated, model of production? Even the notion of ‘a breadwinner’ was called into question as families seek to share more responsibility and work cyclically.

Melina shared the difficulty in exploring and negotiating gender when your role is to ‘attract women’, but at the same time, how reductive this can be when it comes down to who is enacting the role. She talked to the values of flexibility in the workplace, and how these need to be extended beyond women, but also to men in order to normalise them as working practices, not ‘special’ practices.

Guy raised the discussion of how couples negotiate gender differences, potential shared responsibilities, and that we no longer have a model to turn to. There is no clear path through any longer, and often the conversations we have are gendered before we even begin, for example ‘If you can just fix him, we’d be fine’.  He talked around how a cyclical model to build conversation can open up relationships, and help us to move forwards.

The question of identity was raised by Rita, who explained that even though she can be many things at once; a Mum, an Academic, she is no single ‘role’, and neither is she the ‘superwoman who is everything at once’. Identity is fluid, and we need to stop thinking about women in terms of a singular role when we communicate with them, we are all complex individuals.

Ultimately it left us at The Lab feeling enthused, impassioned and intrigued, we only wish it could have gone on for longer! 

The big take-outs for us were around speaking to women not as women, but as people (and the same for men!). Additionally, that we’re in a time of flux, where we can make, and break the rules!  What better opportunities to create stronger brands?

We have so much more to share on this, including our own research into the shifts affecting women and the pop cultural response, and the ‘5 key things to know for brands speaking to women’, or should we say people who happen to be women! 

The 5 Big Things to think about when Speaking to Women:

1) ‘Don’t Put Me in the Woman Box’

Modern femininities are in flux, and are multi-faceted. We need to recognise this, and use codes that speak to women without ‘targeting women’ explicitly.

It isn’t about doing ‘the girls version’ which sets women apart as ‘other’, but rather about speaking in a way that puts needs, aims and desires first, and makes gender ‘incidental’.

2) We all Judge, So Pick a Side

Our work has focused on the ‘paradox of choice’, and as such, the increasing levels of judgement and guilt we are subjected to. From a brand point of view, we can’t ignore this, so why not use it to build stronger connections. A narrow target definition, and strong value statement allows us to build ‘tribes’ – we are not for everyone, we are for this type of person only!

3) Think about Who we Speak to

When we conduct research are we aware of the unconscious biases that we hold?  For example presuming we will talk to ‘stay-at-home Mums’, rather than Dads?  Do we subconsciously assume a family has two parents, and of the same gender?  We need to be aware of our preconceptions and ensure we challenge when and where they are relevant to define who we speak to.

4) Make the Rules

Gender identity is in flux, and being challenged day after day. There is no longer a go-to model, we are in the position to make up the new rules! People are seeking position to do things their own way, and we can facilitate that!

5) Or Break Them!

Having an awareness of the existing gendered codes of a category, or of society, can provide rich and impactful spaces if we decide to go in head first and break them! 

(Screengrab from Godiva Chocolatier One Minute Commercial)

Get in touch if you’d like to know more!