In her book “The Female Brain”, Lou Ann Brizendine recalls a time at Yale medical school where she curiously probed her Professor as to why certain clinical research tests were only performed on male dogs. Swiftly, her professor dismissed the question stating: “We never use females in these studies, their menstrual cycles would just mess up the data.”
There is no shortage of business examples where women have historically been seen as an afterthought, undervalued or worse still, not considered at all.
Clinical trials were often only performed on males. You would be surprised to know that the life-saving crash test dummies only applied gender differences to their product design in the last few years. After 30 years of making shoes, only then did Nike take a mould of a real woman’s foot. They quickly realised women’s feet were not only shaped differently, they were even bigger in some parts than men’s feet.
As a woman, you’ve most likely found yourself feeling under-served or invisible by a brand or business.
Trust me, it wasn’t your high-standards, degree of empathy or paranoia reaching new heights of crazy.
The chances are that you were actually hitting on an issue with a product or service that didn’t have you in mind, even when you were its intended audience. This was probably because your needs weren’t considered in a world that was largely calculated and conceived by men, for men, with no intention or process for looking further or doing better.
The stasis of the status quo
Take the pap smear examination process, for example. The instrument for examination – the speculum – was originally designed in the 1840s. There were several redesign attempts in the modern era, but the instrument largely struggled to have its features upgraded and overhauled. The reason? Most obstetricians and gynecologists are shackled to a world where the traditional lens of medicine, as well as their time and habits were more pressing than improving upon the comfort, servicing and emotional needs of their female clientele. Research has shown women are more comfortable getting a bikini wax than a pap smear, largely due to other environmental cues, levels of comfort, warmth, atmosphere and customer servicing models. As far as the medical fraternity is concerned, if using the old speculum ain’t broke – why fix it?
And therein lies the business rub. While gender diversity has proven to drive business results, 94% CEOs are men and the male lens stays prevalent because who would want to commit to breaking a configuration that kinda-already-somewhat works?
In the beginning, the old-world, traditional lens approach always worked because men were the only business players. As women have continually contributed, entered and excelled outside of the domestic space, once-old cracks widened and we are now grappling with gaping holes waiting to be filled.
Women see the world quite differently to men and their prescription can be quite innovative when businesses add the perspective of the XX chromosome.
The place we’ve come from in history is a place where the cities we live in and the ecosystems (political, social, economic) we function within were largely conceived and derived to meet the needs of men and filtered through a male perspective. This has meant a narrowness of understanding and stern adherence to a mono-culture not built for all.
We see this most commonly in the filmmaking phenomenon called the “male gaze”. Laura Mulvey contends that women are often and regularly sexualized through a male perspective where the woman is objectified and made part of the “spectacle” whereas men are the bearers and owners of the narrative. Consider the majority of blockbuster films today where women are usually only side-kicks or romantic interests, and rarely headline their own tales. Yet when we do see a female-driven story or ones that play with a female-lensed narrative; critical acclaim and an enormous run of profit ensues: just think Wonderwoman, Gone Girl, Lucy, Maleficent, Frozen. In fact, the only US comedy film to pass $100m domestic in 2017 was Girls Trip – a film starring four black women and written by two black women.
All the singled-out ladies
It would seem that at this post-Weinstein point of history, there will be no sweeping of lewd behaviour and sexist practices under the rug.
As more women come forward and speak up, every industry will be forced into a spring clean. From cat calling on the street, to workplace harassment to outdated standards hindering female sovereignty, autonomy and capability – women must be heard and will no longer be tolerant. We want the playing field leveled for her, you and #metoo.
The World Economic Forum now says it’ll be 217 years before we reach global equality on pay and employment – adding an extra 47 years to the figure it gave this time in 2016. Some have appropriated this to the legitimisation of Trump, and the fact that workplace economics do not accurately reflect the unpaid domestic labor markets and women’s mental load.
Once you allow the female-lens into your life, your family and your business alongside our historical male-default; we will think it impossible that we ever saw life without that wide field of vision.
Is it your time to get a whole new prescription for females, and see life through a fresh set of lenses?
Bec Brideson is helping businesses and brands drive exponential growth with a market opportunity estimated to be worth $28T. Through her work in gender-intelligence and innovation in ‘womenomics’ her first book BLIND SPOTS: How to uncover and attract the fastest emerging economy has just been published through Wiley. Her new lens on business has seen her speak both locally and globally on the subject. To find out more about Bec and how she can help you turn a pressing issue into a profitable outcome, visit her at becbrideson.com