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Forget mums, think women

News, 19 May 2016

LONDON: Despite women being the largest "emerging market" in the world, many brands and agencies continue to view them solely through the lens of motherhood and that, a leading industry figure argues, is completely the wrong approach.

Writing for Warc, Rachel Pashley, Group Planning Head at J. Walter Thompson London, makes an impassioned plea for the industry to retire the "busy working mum".

Why is it, she asks, that men are never defined by their parental responsibilities and women always are? This despite the examples of powerful women such as Hillary Clinton or Christine Lagarde.

In many countries, most women are working full-time, Pashley points out: "being a mother is no longer the centre of women's universe". In fact, JWT's research shows that over half of women in the US and UK are either ambivalent about children or actively choosing to stay child-free.

And, citing more JWT research, she notes that 74% of women around the world say it's never been a better time to be a woman. "Notice they didn't say 'to be a mother' they said 'to be a woman'."

Perhaps, she muses, childcare brands could present fathers as the primary caregiver, "serving not only to reflect what's going on already in society but serving also to further normalise fathers' roles in hands-on parenting".

Such an approach could have wider benefits. "That could serve to increase the take up of parental leave, so you could not only sell a product but do something good for society."

Linked to that idea is the need to rethink "male' and "female' values and to explode the various myths that inform how women are regarded in society and portrayed in culture.

"It's true that women leaders excel in typical 'feminine' areas of collaboration and team building," says Pashley, but "they also excel in the values associated with more 'masculine' leadership, such as 'taking the initiative', innovation, integrity and drive for results."

The best way the industry can start to change, she concludes, is simply to have more women on marketing and advertising teams.

"We don't need practical guides on 'understanding the female brain' because we have women in the same room. It's that easy."

Data sourced from Warc