Women Are Not Created Equal

Fem-powerment is at an all time high in the advertising world. As a planner, I’ve closely watched the female empowerment movement across a wide range of consumer products – from the new Brawny paper towel woman, L’Oreal’s inclusion of senior women as spokesmodels and many others. These are campaigns that I personally love. As responsible marketers, however, we need to be aware that not all women are hitched to this bandwagon. There’s a group of Moderate Misses out there who are feeling disappointed.

Recent research reveals that families with traditional values, especially women, aren’t seeing their lifestyles in the media anymore. These families focus on having strong moral values and politeness (as opposed to their progressive friends who value open-mindedness and acceptance). And this group of straight-liners makes up a decent chunk of the population, 33%. Lately they feel like it’s hard to see the values they have in the media: courtesy, duty, reality, relaxation and wisdom.

A study by A&E Networks points out that only 44% of conservative women say they feel represented by women in the media. These women especially are feeling like advertising and the media don’t have a good sense of who they really are. They want to see women who have traditional roles and morals but are also empowered, competent, cool, collected and conservative.

They want more realistic depictions of womanhood, not just some lady strutting around an office as the boss or a frazzled mom. Both progressive and traditional women agree that female strength is standing up for themselves and others. And most importantly a majority of women want to see a shift in gender roles in subtler ways. They don’t want to be told what they should believe or embrace. 

Campaigns that show women so comfortable in their skin they can go naked are missing the mark with this group. They will want to see examples of women who are confident in their skills and bodies, without needing to show them off to the world. Nike got it right in their recent commercial that featured both hijab-wearing and uncovered women.

The takeaway for all of us is that brands are wise to show female strength in all forms.