How Many Boomer Women Have Seats At Your Table?
If you apply this theory to the Supreme Court, it now means that none of the individual justices has to speak for all women; each female justice can speak for herself, and her fellow justices will actually get a female perspective that is at the same time more particular because it is about the woman herself -- and more accurate. I clerked on the Supreme Court (for Justice John Paul Stevens, whose retirement made way for that third female justice, Elena Kagan) at a time when there was only one female justice, the first one, Sandra Day O'Connor. While justices who had strong wives and daughters (justices like Stevens and Harry Blackmun) have tended to incorporate a female perspective in their work, Justice O'Connor surely felt a different kind of pressure: the assumption that her voice might represent the voice of all women.
What does this have to do with marketing to Boomers?
Over the years I've talked to many Boomer women in corporate America who found that the cost of questioning how their company treated women (as customers and employees) was decades of service on "women's initiatives" or committees that produced regular reports -- and few results.
Generally stated, the problem with these efforts is (at its worst) based on segregating women away from the company's mainstream marketing efforts and (at its best) assuming that there is one monolithic female voice that can be best represented by an all-woman committee.
What is really needed, of course, is giving women -- and at least three women -- a seat at the tables where marketing decisions are being made. These women will not represent all women, nor will they represent women "perfectly" -- as if such a thing were possible. But they will represent themselves fully -- which is just what men have been doing all along.
I run a company where I am the only male employee, so I see the benefits of having not just three, but six, women at the table. The way we discuss issues has more in common with the male-dominated tables where I've spent more time in the past. Each woman brings her own different, particular perspective to the table for our editorial meetings. For example, one team member loves poetry, another hates it, while others like it in measures. The result? We end up with a sense of what people who happen to be women think, rather than a made-up guess about what "women" think as a whole.
Conversations about mistakes in marketing to women, marketing to Boomers, and Boomer women in particular often focus on the fact that decision-makers (media buyers, creative directors, brand managers) are usually 20- or 30-somethings, and usually men. How many agencies and how many brands are willing to create teams that include at least three members of the demographic they target?
I'd like to hear from others about their own stories about what it's like to make marketing decisions without women, and with women (in any number) at the table.
Surely, it's not just corporate boards and the Supreme Court that are the only places where this matters.