From Sheryl Sandberg and Hillary Clinton in the US to Nicola Sturgeon in the UK, it is finally becoming less remarkable to see women in the top jobs in business and politics. For probably the first time ever, the top five Google search terms linked to “US presidential candidates” for the next election includes the phrase “Female US presidential candidates 2016”.
In the commercial world, the recognition that women make the majority of household spending decisions has largely spelled the end, in the UK and US at least, of the girl in a bikini advertising beer or airlines. Female customers want to see themselves represented in a non-patronising or sexist way.
As a business, charity or political organisation, you can use your own website and social media channels to harness the high level of interest in women’s issues, from the new generation of female leaders to day-to-day issues affecting family budgets, which still fall predominantly to women to manage.
The advantages for you are that women are increasingly becoming decision makers at the highest levels and they have embraced more than men sharing images and content via sites such as Instagram and Pinterest. If your content is good enough to share, you gain access to a wider audience and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Producing content to engage a female audience is particularly relevant for industries where women are under-represented, such as engineering, construction, oil and gas and the highest-paid areas of financial services, but is applicable to all sectors.
There are lots of good examples out there to give your business ideas:
In the last year, many of the most successful viral marketing campaigns for both commercial and not-for-profit causes have been created by and for women. Take the #bringbackourgirls hashtag, set up to raise awareness of the kidnap of more than 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, which succeeded in attracting the support of Michelle Obama. Or the #LikeAGirl campaign for P&G’s Always sanitary towel brand, which gathered more than 48 million views on YouTube.
In order to hire and retain the best female staff, for example, the front page of your own website is the ideal place to show how women are valued and enabled to progress in your organisation. In September, BP led its entire website with a debate between its chief scientist, Angela Strank, and a recent chemistry graduate working for the company, Rachel Fort, on the challenge of keeping young people interested in science, maths and technology subjects at school.
A straightforward ad which relied on its social media appeal (ie the likelihood of the target audience sharing it with friends and followers) among women was last year’s Fiat 500 advert, “The Motherhood”, a spoof gangster rap from a mother covered in yoghurt and baby sick. As well as making put-upon parents laugh, the ad won eyeballs because it was different to the usual aspirational car commercial featuring glossy people and landscapes. Made for a UK audience and ultimately liked and loathed in equal measure, it has attracted 4.5 million views on YouTube.
With both of these examples, the content was not hidden away on the “diversity” pages of the BP or Fiat websites but aired to the world at large. For industries which struggle to recruit and retain female staff (oil and gas) or put off many female viewers (cars), publishing content that tries to redress this can give you a way to find and speak to an audience which would not naturally seek you out.
No doubt it’s a tricky balance to strike – content which strikes a chord with the concerns and aspirations of women but does not talk down to 50 per cent of the population while alienating the other half. The pleasure and pain of social media is that your audience will tell you pretty quickly whether you have succeeded or failed, and that is multiplied a million-fold when you take on a subject like the lack of women in senior roles, working mothers or body image.
Your own website and social media channels give you a platform to involve your brand or organisation in these debates on your own terms.