Author: Paulina Zelazny
Paulina Zelazny is a marketing communications manager by day and a hashtag activist by night. She is especially passionate about issues surrounding gender and how it intersects with culture, sexuality, economics and policy. She’s also an aspiring Yogini, chocolate addict and pug lover who secretly wishes she was a soap opera star. Her face is usually buried in her phone perusing through various social networks so if you want to reach her, tweet her at @PaulinaZelazny.
Last summer, I was invited to take part in an employee panel discussion about gender in the workplace at Unilever Canada. It was an honour to be invited and to be sitting next to such accomplished women. The discussion was honest, insightful and fun. I left feeling truly inspired and encouraged for the future.
What was especially encouraging was the number of men sitting in the audience. I’ll be honest, I was expecting a room full of women—which would be amazing as well—but these discussions are so much more impactful when men take part in them. Not only were men present, they were very engaged.
There are a few major stories on the media circuit these last few weeks that have a common and disturbing thread running through them. I’m referring to the Josh Duggar child sexual abuse allegations, the vulgar taunts some female reporters are being subjected to, and the sexual harassment female stand-up comedians face during performances. That thread is the pervasiveness of social attitudes that are rooted in sexism.
On the positive side, it’s great that these all-too-common stories are getting mainstream media coverage. It’s encouraging to see these troubling topics being discussed outside of feminist social circles, and perpetrators getting called out and in some cases punished for their gross behaviour.
As a female consumer and a marketer, I pay especially close attention to how brands choose to position their products to girls and women. Breaking through the advertising noise to capture the attention of your audience is difficult enough, so it’s all the more surprising when I see brands falling back on lazy gender stereotypes. Gender is one of the observable characteristics we marketers use when segmenting our audience. It’s a valuable distinction, but to gain real quality insights we need to look beyond simple demographic information and consider the attitudes, interests and opinions of our audience.
I spent most of my twenties passionately focusing on women’s issues that did or could potentially have a direct impact on my life. Things such as: female representation in media and pop culture, inequality in the workforce, self-image and body issues, violence against women and reproductive rights. This was not intentional and it’s only looking back now that I see it. I suppose it’s human nature to care most about things that do or may affect us personally. Of course (and unfortunately) these are all still very much salient issues today.