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Remove sexism from your communications!

Claire Mason, MD of Man Bites Dog, urges B2B marketers to remove everyday sexism from their communications

It has been a bad month for communicating with women. British Nobel scientist Tim Hunt told a room of journalists that women in laboratories ‘fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.’ India’s PM caused a Twitter storm with his backhanded praise of Sheikh Hasina’s crackdown on terrorism ‘despite being a woman’.

We might think these are isolated incidents to add to the catalogue of everyday sexism, but are B2B marketers faring any better in engaging women? There are three common marketing techniques we need to challenge and change. 

1. Segregation
Hunt called for segregated labs. Are we in fact patronising women by creating women-only business groups? What about the growing number of women’s business awards and conferences sponsored by B2B brands? Where do we draw the line between creating a supportive community and patting us on the head for what we achieve ‘despite being a woman’? Does this segregated approach create an expansive space or a ghetto?

2. Comparison
Every week brands launch research examining the differences between men and women in business. There is even an agency dedicated to this ‘genre’ of communications. But the most well-meaning research on female entrepreneurs and business leaders implicitly compares us to a ‘gold standard’ – our male counterparts. Not only does this suggest we are abnormal, it creates a false dichotomy. Men and women are set up as extreme juxtaposed archetypes, when the truth is more complex.

3. Assumption
It takes two to tango, so why is parenthood so high on the agenda when it comes to communications about women in business and gender parity? Boardroom diversity reports continue to blame children for the lack of women on boards. But more thorough studies have consistently proved that barriers to progression emerge earlier in women’s careers. Not About the Kids (NAK) highlights the fact that both child-free women and mothers want a more inclusive and varied business conversation.

All this leads me to wonder – should B2B marketers be targeting women as a group at all? After all, have you ever met a typical woman?