Archives for category: Sex differences

There was a certain irony in seeing the headline that ‘more than a third of teenage girls suffer depression and anxiety’ on the same front page as updated data on the gender pay gap (in short – there still is one; https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/23/gender-pay-gap-average-18-per-cent-less-uk-women).

(I wonder what it must be like to read the continual coverage about the pay gap, the casual sexism of the Olympic commentators, the constant trolling and victim blaming as an 18 year old girl?  Pretty bloody depressing, I’d say.)

I read the pay gap coverage with an eye roll. Here we are again. At first I couldn’t even be bothered to comment on it. Creating systemic change in this arena is complex, painfully slow and full of people missing the point entirely.

Rather than add to the complexity, I’m going to focus on one thing I think the advertising industry could change to make a difference in this area – flexible working. The biggest challenge, in my view, is that the advertising industry finds it hard to create an upwards career trajectory for those choosing not to work 38+ hours a week. And, typically it is mothers who are requesting to work in a different way – albeit we are seeing increasing numbers of men adopt this work pattern.

  1. Flexible working needs to stop being seen as a women’s issue. I argued in The Guardian last Autumn that as soon as flexible working is seen as a people issue and a way of recruiting and retaining the best talent, it will start to get taken more seriously.
  1. We need to take risks. Of course we don’t know if two people doing a job share is going to work – but we’re never going to know unless we give it a shot. Too often, people take the tried and tested route and miss the chance to discover something amazing.
  1. We need to make it easier for recruiting managers to take a creative approach. Added to this, sign off systems can make it harder to get approval for a more creative solution. I understand why a manager would choose a full timer over a 4 day a week account exec if those were the only options available to them because of head count restrictions! But what if they were able to choose between a full timer OR a three day account exec and a three day assistant? Companies need to make it possible for the recruiting manager to make these solutions possible.
  1. We need to stop hiding behind our clients. Our clients work more flexibly than us (largely) and I don’t buy into most of the arguments that clients won’t allow it. I think that’s hiding behind a convenient excuse.
  1. We need to stand up to our clients. If there are clients out there insisting on full time Account Directors, (and I know there are a handful), we need to stand up to them and explain that flexibility may be required if they want the best person for the job. Use it as a chance to get out of that subservient client / agency relationship whilst you’re at it.
  1. We need to stop using people working flexibly as a way of saving money. Yes, I know you do it. The Account Director that only wants to work 4 days a week gives you a 20% overhead saving. Just no.  That’s setting that AD up for failure and her team up for overload. Invest in getting the right back up resource and you might just see everyone thrive.

With the technology and cross border reality of 21st century work, it is astonishing to me that we are so wedded to 20th century work practices. It’s time that an industry that prides itself on being current, caught up with the times.

Rox

On Tuesday 28th June, we hosted our first ever conference – HeANDShe – with a diverse panel of speakers from the worlds of neuroscience, mental health campaigning, media and advertising.

Our intention was to discuss how to bring men along to the gender conversation, along with starting a debate about how men are also harmed by gender stereotypes.

The evening brought thought-provoking conversation about how and why the panel would tackle harmful gender stereotypes.

For those of you that couldn’t be there, here are some insights.

Dr Jack Lewis, neuroscientist, kicked off by stating that female and male brains are much more similar that dissimilar, and that nurture plays a huge role in shaping the brain differences between men and women. What this means is how we treat our girls and boys, which research tells us is different even before they are born if we know their gender, is what largely shapes the consequent differences in our brains. He suggested that the brain is more likely to remember narratives and stories, rather than facts. This may be why the idea that ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ has gained so much traction, when in fact the similarities are much more pronounced than the differences.

Natasha Devon MBE, the Government’s former Mental Health ambassador for Schools and co-founder of the Self-Esteem Team,  explained the devastating impact that gender stereotypes can have on young men and boys, which is shown by the alarming high suicide rates and rise in mental health and self-esteem issues that young people suffer today. She suggested that having one emotion – whether that be happiness or anger – isn’t enough for any human being, and that men especially need to be able to have the space and opportunity to be able to open up and share how they’re feeling.

Harriet Minter, Women in Leadership editor for The Guardian, put forward the case that women need to do less and men need to do more, expect more and ask for more.  She shone a light on how hard it can be for men to choose a career that they are passionate about over providing for their family, how challenging it can be for men to have the space to care for their children, and how it might actually be tougher for men to ask for flexible working and extended parental leave than it is for women. Harriet argued that gender equality is still just a “nice to have” in our industry and we need to continue having this conversation if we are ever to affect real change within our organisations.

Paul Frampton, Group CEO of Havas Media Group UK & Ireland, went last and did a great job at landing these insights in the world of advertising and media.  He discussed leadership styles and how “leadership is changing… and emotions are the secret weapon of great leaders”.  This, in his view, provides a strong case for more gender diversity at a senior level and the emergence of a feminine leadership styleHe said, “We’re starting to see a world where vulnerability is valued in the workplace, especially for millennials” which is something that The Hobbs Consultancy has been championing for a long time.

Paul argued that “knock on change in the ad industry will have a knock on effect in wider culture”, and it is because of this that I think we all have a collective responsibility to affect change in our industry.

If you are interested in us bringing the HeANDShe conversation to your organization please get in touch.

Speak soon

Emily
(Marketing and Operations for The Hobbs Consultancy)

 

 

How women are portrayed, considered and represented is currently on everyone’s agenda.

In this guest post, Roxanne Hobbs and Flora Joll from Mullen Lowe London argue whether advertisers need to catch up with our changing culture.

We are in a unique position in the advertising industry. Everyone is jostling to lead the discussion around equality and conscious that the views around gender are moving faster in culture than in advertising. Yet we are also in a unique position to influence the outcome as we create part of our cultural landscape through our creative output in the advertising that we make.

As a case in point, Fairy asked the question of how fair the division of labour is in your household, to complement Ariel’s suggestion that men #ShareTheLoad in attempts to redress the balance of inequality. These campaigns perhaps have the intention to create a conversation about the distribution of household labour, whilst also selling a few more unit cases of detergent. Indeed we now know that the more fathers undertake their fair share of household labour, the more their daughters in particular express a greater interest in working outside the home and having a less stereotypical occupation.

Perhaps the sooner we question and thus subvert gender stereotypes, the less likely they are to persist. Riding on Allways’ coat tails, Barbie has changed her act and Target doesn’t stock blue and pink ‘gendered’ colours for their toys any more.

With this momentum, what is now required is a definitive statement of intent. It almost goes without saying that equality is the endgame, but now that the conversation has moved on, where should it go?

bridge

We believe that what is now required is a more progressive conversation about gender equality. Whilst we applaud the attempts to instigate a conversation in the media and through advertising, we suggest the end game is one in which gender isn’t even part of the equation.

Gender is just a small part of how people define themselves, and it would seem for the younger generations this is becoming increasingly true. Perhaps The Guardian got it right – “the next step in marketing to women is to stop marketing to women”.

We do not need to create a gender specific portrait of women, or men. We can create narratives that appeal on a fundamental level: human first. Gender stereotypes play out well on a creative mood board, but the cost of these stereotypes on a societal level are becoming clear. We predict these stereotypes will increasingly create resistance, and not attraction, to our brands.

Ultimately we envisage an advertising world in which we don’t even allude to gender stereotypes, even if the intention is to ultimately undermine them.

Change does not have to be dramatic or overnight – it can be done incrementally, as Soraya Chemaly pointed out in her TED Women talk “The Credibility Gap: How Sexism Shapes Human Knowledge”, saying that “small changes in initial conditions can yield exponential difference”. A deodorant brand that has been all about attracting scantily clad babes can show your girlfriend smiling next to you; it just so happens that it is her in the driving seat, as Axe showed in ‘Find Your Magic’.

Flora would argue that marketing should set the agenda for culture, whilst Roxanne believes, at the very least, it should reflect the culture around it. At the moment it would seem, given advertising’s obsession with the younger demographics, that in the arena of gender it is doing neither.

Author – Flora Joll, Strategist, Mullen Lowe
Contribution by Roxanne Hobbs, Founder, The Hobbs Consultancy

I am enough (2)

Do you sometimes doubt your abilities and worry that you are not good enough?  Do you feel inadequate even though what you have achieved suggests otherwise?

If so then you could well be suffering from Imposter Syndrome.  It’s something that has probably always been around but it was given a label in the 1970s to describe the phenomenon in which successful people cannot internalise, or ‘own’, their successes.  It is experienced as a sense of inadequacy and ‘not enough’, even when information suggests this not to be true.  And, interestingly, it is more likely to be experienced by women.

First the good news – if you feel this is something you recognise in yourself then you are not alone.  In fact over 70% of people studied report having experienced it at one time or another in their lives.

And a long list of high achievers have all talked about experiencing these feelings too.  It would seem fame, success and prestigious accolades do not make you immune.

Imposter Syndrome is more than just doubting yourself and we have to unpick it further to be able to tackle it.  I would argue that Imposter Syndrome is a function of perfectionism and shame with these being two sides of the same coin.

Putting a spotlight on perfectionism makes sense – it’s a self destructive belief system in which we think that if we just do everything perfectly we can minimise difficult feelings of unworthiness and shame.  The cycle is addictive as perfect is an impossible standard to strive for.  And, when we get things wrong, or when people judge or blame us, we decide to strive even harder rather than acknowledging the impossible standards that have been set.

But, why shame?  Brené Brown defines shame as the intensely painful feeling that we are flawed and are therefore not worthy of love and belonging.  Maybe you’re surprised to see shame being discussed here.  It isn’t something that is often discussed but it is the driving emotion behind so many of our destructive behaviours in the workplace and, so, can’t be ignored.

I believe Imposter Syndrome is rife in the workplace, particularly for women, due to the masculine workplace culture.  If the workplace rewards ‘masculine’ traits of dominance, control, linear thinking and reason over ‘feminine’ ones such as group decision making, empathy, lateral thinking and intuition, then it’s no wonder women doubt their worthiness.

The lack of senior female roles models who ‘show up’ as themselves does not help.  In the past, and still today perhaps to a lesser extent, women felt that they have to take on masculine workplace characteristics to get ahead and therein lies the issue.  If women continue to bend to that idea that they have to be more ‘male’ to get ahead then that just undermines the value that women can, and should be encouraged to, bring to the workplace.

It’s easy to get caught in a vicious cycle – you don’t show up as yourself because what you bring isn’t valued, and because you’re not showing up as yourself you doubt yourself, and so it goes on.

Look out for our next newsletter in which we show you how to work through Imposter Syndrome.

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AIR-retreat (6)

Delusions of GenderThose of you reading popular science books or media articles about gender will have most probably formed an opinion that male and female brains are wired differently in utero and that these different brains create different minds.

In a fantastic read, Cordelia Fine’s work ‘Delusions of Gender’ seeks to unravel these assumptions and show just how unproven they actually are.

With chapter titles such as ‘sex and premature speculation’ (which the immature part of my own brain found highly amusing), she shows just how hastily conclusions are being made about the brain’s potential – perhaps just as the Victorians attributed intelligence to measures such as skull volume and brain weight.

For a start, brains are inextricably linked to the social context in which they develop and function.  How can we be sure that the differences seen in brain imaging aren’t a result of a lifetime of living in a society with very clear gender expectations?  What if sex differences in the brain were preventing sex differences in behaviour by compensating for the physiological differences?  What if smaller numbers of neurons are compensated by greater transmission capabilities of the neurons?

Attempting to summarise the thorough research analysis in to a few key points feels reductive and clumsy; and yet most won’t have the time or inclination to sift the research yourselves.  And this is what makes some of the current claims so scary – they quickly become part of the culture in which our brains and minds develop.  The results seem intuitive, gender expectations continue to be learned quickly and are then primed by the social context.

I’ve seen this borne out in the research I’m doing in the corporate world.  Talk to anyone about why there should be more women on the board, and they say that women are better at developing people and they are more empathetic.  I get it, I really do.  It’s easier to convince senior leaders of a business case in which women are going to bring something different to the boardroom table.  I’ve been guilty of sneaking in a ‘research suggests that women make empathetic leaders’ type comment just to get in the door.

Unfortunately there’s also a lot of research that shows that women don’t actually make more empathetic leaders.  It’s pretty hard to measure empathy.  Women are certainly more likely to say they are empathetic – but is this because of the gender expectations on them right from the start of their lives?  Is that because the popular media is constantly telling us that women are more empathetic?

The problem is that these scientific explanations (based on flimsy science according to Fine) make their way in to our culture and then impact the decisions that women make – thus continuing to fuel the so called differences between the sexes.  Women are more likely to choose careers requiring caring for people and empathy that, incidentally, seem to be the lowest status ones.  Those not displaying empathy are harshly criticised (perhaps as ‘ball breakers’).  In many instances a limitation on capabilities is implied – if you are empathetic then it is implied that you can’t make the hard choices when they’re needed, that you won’t be able to make unpopular decisions.

The reporting of the science in the popular press continues to place an expectation of how to behave and what choices to make dependent upon gender.

I certainly think a greater amount of empathy in the boardroom would be a wonderful thing.  But… I don’t think it’s solely the role of women to bring that empathy in.  And I think women can bring so much more to the board room table besides.