GLOBAL: The marketing community not only needs to move away from stereotypical depictions of women in advertising if it is to successfully reach this group, but also to recruit more women to senior positions, an industry figure has argued.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, How to market effectively to women, Sue Unerman, chief transformation officer at MediaCom, observes that, in an industry where the majority of purchases are made by women, the majority of senior management decisions about advertising are made by men – largely because most senior management positions are held by men.

It's common sense, she says, that "since there are in fact differences between men and women, if you're marketing to women you would be better off involving women in the decision-making process at the highest levels".

Beyond recruitment issues, she outlines six best practice ideas that will ensure better marketing to women.

Most obviously, the industry needs to stop objectifying women and move past their usual portrayal as carers, sophisticates, ideals or domestic obsessives.

"There may be no better way to stand out amongst a vanilla ocean of stereotypes than to show women in powerful positions in marketing communications," Unerman states.

Similarly, it is no longer enough – if it ever was – to segment women by age, a practice that fails to take account of the multiple roles that women take on. A mum of two can be the main earner as well as the predominant care giver; "generalities are now redundant," according to Unerman.

The remaining four principles – be authentic, be friendly and relevant, be funny, and act with meaning – could apply to all marketing, but need to be considered in the context of marketing to women.

When Dell spotted a growth opportunity among women entrepreneurs, for example, it didn't just see this as an agency brief but established the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network, creating real organisational change and communicating the message with research, annual summits and networking.

"Brands need to express authenticity not just through brand essence and tone of voice, not just in advertising, but in all elements of the communication strategy," Unerman advises.

Being useful remains a great way of connecting with women, she adds. "There's nothing new about this strategy but it's a noteworthy one."

And among younger women especially, there's an increasing expectation that business should do something for good, as exemplified by the likes of Always #Likeagirl campaign.

Humour always works, although men and women tend to find different things funny – another reason to ensure women are part of the creative team.

Data sourced from WARC