gender and marketing

At a recent workshop, one of the participants noticed a dynamic that had completely slipped past my attention.

Not surprisingly.

In activism and community organizing there is a principle called ‘representative leadership’. Meaning, the leadership should look like the participants. If you’re leading a workshop for a group of black youth – and all the leaders of the workshop are white – it is likely going to cause problems.


There are things that I won’t notice as a white person that could be triggering or offensive that a black person would.

And vice versa.

And it’s always comforting to know that one of ‘your people’ is in charge and can represent you.

So, it’s not surprising that I entirely missed this dynamic of how gender came into play with conversations about marketing . . .

One of the things I’d like to talk about at perhaps a different time is the gender component of this work.

I found the gender dynamics in the room quite unsettling, and left feeling quite depressed about the different conversations where women confessed they had difficulty setting their price, making a stance, feeling overwhelmed and they “know nothing”.

I heard so many self-defeating comments where women devalued their own knowledge, intuition, and experiences. I heard words like “I screwed up” “I know nothing about marketing”  (bullshit. We all know something about marketing). “I messed up.” “I’m a screw up“. “I feel overwhelmed, and don’t know where to begin“. “I have x, y, or z idea, but that’s probably stupid.”

I was pretty astounded.

Of course we all have self-esteem stuff to work on, but what if women had a chance to reflect back the negativity they express, and then to ask: “How does this kind of thinking hurt us in our business and in our marketing?

I heard a story once of a women, after 10 years of staying at home, trying to back into the finance management sector. After shooting off 100s of CV’s into the ether, she finally got an interview. The interviewer said that while she had had good experience, she was concerned about how her skills could have possibly beeen maintained during the 10 year stretch of homemaking.

The mother/interviewee said: “of course I have. I’ve raised 4 children on my own. I’ve set up complex budgets, managed multiple deadlines and timetables, and I do this for people who’s developmental capacities change day to day. I act as an advocate for these small people in various forums (schools, soccer leagues), and I mobilize neighbourhood services to try to make my community better place for my kids. I am an educator, cleaner, finance management, learner, advocate, driver. In order to do all of this really well, I also have had to learn how to carve out time for self-care and continue to educate myself to stay on top of my game. These are the skills I bring to this position”   etc. etc. etc.

You get the point.

And of course she was hired.

I suspect if this story were true, it’s not because that she was a single mom, but because if I were sitting on the other side of the table, I would hire someone in a heart beat who was THAT reflective of their own experience, expressed that much clarity about who she was and expressed such self-respect and self-worth. That’s the kind of person that inspires trust and confidence. Women are SO comfortable at care-taking, cheer-leading, nurturing, and man, was there ever a lot of that in the room. But the undercurrent that I sensed was so difficult to observe.

I spent a lot of time in the workshop trying to get at what “marketing for hippies” was…and some big ideas rang true for me. How to bring the values of community, fairness, equity, social responsibility to marketing, and how to avoid that “gross” feeling that transpires from marketing in a way that is not aligned with your values.

I loved that part of the workshop.

But man oh man, did it ever get me thinking about this gender piece, and how I would like to address this in some capacity, somehow. I don’t know, but I feel pretty passionately about it!

What do you think? What have your experiences been around this? I would love to hear any stories you have to share.


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