The Female Economy Brands Can No Longer Ignore

Back in the early 00s and pre-data-explosion, we didn’t have much evidence of the trillions of dollars women influenced in consumer decision making. Even so, the 97% domination of male creative directors and culture in ad agencies made it seem a no-brainer to open the doors to my agency in 2004 and create an agency with an overt female audience priority.

As one of the “3%’ers” of female creative directors I had also unknowingly joined another club.

I was one of the 0.0000003%’ers*: Women agency owners to hang out a shingle and begin the entrepreneurial journey.

Since the explosion of data has hit the globe I can thankfully show the scale, influence and different orientations of the female buyer.

There is hard data available now to back up pretty much every argument for developing female-centric marketing and communications strategies.

And research from the likes of McKinsey, Catalyst and the big consulting groups numbers of numbers of numbers also shows how diversity makes a tangible difference – and especially at the top levels of business.

Despite a mountain of solid, empirical evidence that just keeps growing, the lack of diversity still for the most part exists, along with a stubborn resistance to do anything meaningful about it.

But I guess change is hard for big legacy businesses and industries.

Surely, it’s a different picture in venture capital world – where investors are on the lookout for new, disruptive opportunities cashing in on emerging social needs?

I naively thought so, until a recent exposure to the world of pitching and capital raising disavowed me of that misconception.

It turns out it’s not that different to the advertising industry. There’s money being spent building businesses. But they don’t belong to women.

Globally women receive somewhere between 5-10% of VC funding. In 2017 they received just 2%.

Or look at the names of global agency groups or shareholder companies out there – from the very beginnings of Madison Avenue – you won’t find an agency with one woman’s name on it. Not one.

Yes it’s good old bias at its best. And removing the potential for it has unearthed the fact it exists.

To eliminate the bias, blind recruitment is on the rise, though it had been trialed back in the 70s and 80s in orchestras where research had proved that this step alone makes it 50% more likely that a woman would advance to the finals.

In 2017 Tropfest decided to make entries to the short film festival blind. The results were extraordinary with an unprecedented number of women making it onto the honor board of short film finalists. (To quantify this the proportion of female finalists increased from around 5 per cent to 50 per cent).

So there’s no need to join the dots for anyone.

We have collected the data proof points.

“Always talk the numbers” and “always go straight to the back of the deck” is the advice women who run agencies or have start-ups have been receiving. Don’t talk in “emotion” talk in “facts”.

Well the facts exist: Wealth and capital does not end up in the hands of women.

And the question begs: if the numbers are so important – why is it that this set of numbers that unearth some incredibly compelling statistics are suddenly overlooked?

You want numbers to make business cases – here are the numbers staring us all in the face.

Which set of numbers is it that you are interested in looking at?

It just doesn’t add up?

Five Steps You Can Take:

Step 1: Create a high-level group of analysts from your business to look at all the numbers and breakdown all of the data points by genders. Both external data about industry norms and your own. If you see 50/50 great. If you see a majority swinging in either direction, then go to Step 2.

Step 2: How did you get to these percentages or proportions? What is the historic perspective? How do you compare to same and adjacent industry figures? It’s not a blame game – it’s about understanding the genesis, and fixing the pain point/s.

Step 3: Who needs to be trained, educated, coached and continuously inspired to make sure that the evolution from this point looks different? That the studies that show how diversity will benefit your company’s profitability ( i.e. more women at Board level, gender-lenses) are being acted upon and implemented. That is there is a plan, it’s tacit and tangible.

Step 4: If you are training and offering leadership programs – how effective are they at uncovering biases and creating top-down transformation? Which programs are visionary, actionable and progressive and which are token or box-checking?

Step 5: Be the change – if only 2% of women are receiving funding it’s not a “women’s problem” it’s a culture problem. Own it, Know it, Change It. Bring in the experts to help you commit to this transformation and know they are not there to shame anyone. Just to help grow everyone.

*No audited research exists on this and therefore has been calculated on the evidence at hand. If this annoys you like it does me – why not research it?

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Bec Brideson, Founder, Venus Comms

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