The honesty, agency and power of #pressforprogress

Posted 8 March 2018

At our Women's Voices event this year, we were fortunate enough to be joined by Megan Van Someren from JWT. In front of an audience of over 200 female media and charity professionals, Megan shared the findings from her work on Female Tribes. In our latest blog, Megan expands upon this work for us.

It might be the moment we are in or the mood and attitude of the time, but #pressforprogress speaks to me…more so than themes in years past. And it’s not because it reminds me of one of my more excitable expressions in life: Press for champagne.

I connect with this year’s theme because of its honesty, its agency, and the sense that we are all in this together.

It’s honest in that we have come a long way, but recognises the fact that our work is far from done. To continue the change, we must be aware of the barriers to progress. Yes, there are many but there are some that are closer to us in the media than others.

How women are represented and the role models we are inspired by often begins with how media, culture, brands and marketers define women because what we do gets put out into culture. As such we have to take responsibility.  It’s actually expected of us.

81% of women believe brands should be more responsible in the way we to talk to and represent women.

JWT Women’s Index research

According to our Women’s Index research (8,000 women from 19 countries) 81% of women believe brands should be more responsible in the way we to talk to and represent women.

And we’ve got some work to do because 85% of women said that when it comes to representing women, the film world and advertising world (the reel world) need to catch up with the real world. 

How many people have received or written a brief “busy working mum”? As a strategist and planner working on a myriad of food and CPG brands I’ll raise my hand. In fact I have written this in a strategy and in a brief: She’s striving to the best mum she can, but the realities and stresses of life can in get in the way.

Meet the busy working mum

Otherwise, uninspiringly known as the primary shopper.  Or worse, the gate keeper. But is this really accurate?  Is this her contribution to the world?

How about these women? Do they fall into that categorization?

  • Michele Obama
  • Ariana Huffington
  • Beyoncé

Ridiculous, right? All it takes is a simple reorientation. Rather than defining women based on their responsibilities, we should be understanding, celebrating and most importantly designing around their achievements as athletes, leaders, writers and wealth creators.

[Women] command nearly 70% of HH financial decisions with 50% of us reporting to be primary breadwinner.

JWT Women’s Index research
A slide from Female Tribes presentation at 2018 Women's Voices event

Femininity is a strength

What we hear from women in our global Women’s Index is that we are our own leading ladies.  We command nearly 70% of HH financial decisions with 50% of us reporting to be primary breadwinner. Our combined wealth is expected to reach $18 Trillion this year. We call this Female Capital and it’s the reason Female Tribes exists.

And this is one of the reasons why most women (three quarters in fact) feel it’s never been a better time to be a woman. And most of us (86%) believe that femininity is a strength, not a weakness.

So, with all this going for us and strong femininity the order of the day, why is it then, that when you search the definition of “femininity” in a very popular search engine does this come up?

A definition of femininity from Dictionary

The fact is for women; we define femininity in many ways.  And this is pretty universal.  We see characteristics pop that feel quite counter to lipstick and high heels: confidence, independence, strength.  We also value those more maternal aspects as well.  Indicating the complexity and diversity of being a woman today.

Clearly that’s what is missing in much of how women are represented.  But let’s look at the idea of role models. Probably summed up best by our partners the Geena Davis Foundation: “If you can see it you can be it.”

Female heroes can have a pretty power effect on us and, according to the Women’s Index, in certain parts of the world can help us overcome violence.  In Brazil 25% of women said that seeing a female role model on screen had given them the courage to leave an abusive relationship.

Sisterhood, legacy and technology

Connected to all of this is idea of legacy. Our analysis of all this data indicate there is a real desire in women for legacy. Unlike what we may see in men, which is more anchored in fame. In both emerging and developed markets, women are wanting to impact and give back to the communities around them.

As a response to this, as well as everything I set up in terms of Female Capital and femininity, today’s activist brands and empowering movements have a modern and bold voice reflective of this diversity, complexity, and agency we see in women and in modern femininity.

Because the more we see, the more we can be but also the more we believe, the more we do and the more we can change for the better.

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Hands making a frame shape with the view of the sky in the background