You've Come A Long Way, Baby -- Or, Have You?
Virginia Slims, launched a year after the Summer of Love, tapped into the nascent women's movement and targeted young Boomer women who embraced independence, liberation and feminism by skewering 19th-century cultural and legal norms that prevented women from voting, working and smoking. The tagline captured the optimism of opportunities that the modern age afforded us.
Enjoli, launched in 1978, didn't look to the past but embraced women's new-won independence. With its empowering, if cheesy, lyrics ("I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never make you forget that you're a man -- cause I'm a woman), we learned we could do it all.
I couldn't help but think of those ads as I read the latest white paper from Ad Age and JWT on attitudes towards working women. Titled the "Realities of the Working Woman," the white paper provides terrific stats -- like women hold 49.8% of 130 million jobs in the U.S.; that two-thirds of all working women are the primary breadwinners for their families; and that the average working women works 4.9 days a week, starting at 9 and ending at 4.
But it was the multi-generational insights that struck me. Perhaps, we haven't come that far, after all. Boomer working women are still struggling with the traditional values of staying home vs. having a career 40 years after learning we've come a long way.
- 53% of Boomer women agree with the statement, "It was so much easier back in the day when women stayed at home and men went to work"; 49% of Millennial women also agreed with the statement but only 40% of the Gen Xers did.
- Almost two-thirds (65%) of all working women would stay home with their families if they could afford to.
- There is a significant minority of Boomer and Millennial working women who believe that the mother should stay home with the children: 44% of Boomers and Millennials did not disagree with the statement that a mother should stay home with the children.
- Boomer women are less likely to believe that their work defines them:
58% of Boomer women view work as being linked to their sense of self vs. two thirds (66%) of Gen Xers and 71% of Millennials.
63% of Boomer women said they work for personal and professional fulfillment compared to 67% of Gen Xers and 72% of Millennials.
These insights speak to another truth, though, about Boomers that marketers (myself included) sometimes forget: not all Boomers believed in or supported the vast societal changes that sweep though America in the 1960s and 1970s. Many were happy and content with the status quo.
With Bureau of Labor Statistics suggesting that Boomer women will continue working past 65 -- some for professional and personal fulfillment, others out of financial need -- marketers would do well to remember that Boomer working women are not monolithic.
While some of us were being molded by these messages from Virginia Slims and Enjoli, others were fretting about the "ring around his collar" (Wisk) or having dishwasher hands (Palmolive) or making the perfect cup of coffee for their husbands (Folgers).