Lately (as in the last couple of years), I’ve noticed a culture of exclusion where women were concerned in business and the media. Alberta Venture Magazine featured for several issues only male CEO’s, as did Inc magazine, Success, and Fast Company. I did notice women’s images in the advertising portion of the magazines across from the male only features. The problem was, as a purchaser and reader of these magazines, I could no longer relate. That’s the problem with exclusion, readers in the excluded demographics start feeling disenfranchised and then they move on to something else that gets their attention.
Meanwhile, women are still getting college degrees, launching businesses, becoming the head of their households (by choice or circumstance) and holding down more than most should, always knowing they have to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously. Women are making great strides, on their own terms, and yet, if you read the print stories, except for one or two exceptional female leaders, you’d think they didn’t exist.
Case in point, LinkedIn partnered with Toshiba to create an advertising campaign directed to a specific career group, IT professionals. They had it all figured out. They were so proud of their accomplishments that they launched it and waited for the orders to roll in. They even had a mug designed just for the occasion and they were giving it away for FREE! Who could resist?
The mug said #1 IT GUY.
Now personally, I’d rather be drinking out of a mug that said “Tim Horton’s” even if I’m drinking Maxwell House. At home I have a couple of teapots that fit neatly on a cup with flowers and feminine designs. So if I had seen the mug, as a woman who is part of the demographics that makes 75% of household purchasing decisions, I probably would have gotten the mug for a male I knew as a reward for a job well done or as a gag gift.
But instead, the insidious ad kept telling me “You know it. Now everyone else will know it too.” and then my picture with arrows going to and from the tacky #1 IT GUY mug. In other words, the ad took my picture and kept telling me I was a M-A-N.
I expect this from misdirected spam trying to sell me penis enlargement schemes, Viagra and lost female souls claiming to know me from Russia, I expect this from Nigerian princes…but not from a legitimate (especially not two) companies with educated individuals who have a vast knowledge of technology and marketing to make this crude mistake. So I wrote to Toshiba first. Interestingly, the response was from a female employee claiming that they chose to exclude women from their marketing campaign because their research showed women only made up 30-40% of IT and were not worth pursuing and if I wanted a #1 IT GAL mug, I could ask for one.
Honestly, I was not nice in my response. I’ve had a similar interaction with Circuit City about their exclusion of women in their marketing and sales to the point of creating a hostile purchasing experience and predicted their demise. They filed for bankruptcy not long after, waking up a little too late having targeted women in one of their ads a month later but failing to change their sales channel corporate culture. Reminding the Toshiba marketing person of my historical prediction, I predicted they would follow the same fate. And then I quoted Doctor Phil (or at least I think he would say this)…”You can’t fix stupid.”
The next day, and the one after that, and the one after that, every time I logged on to my LinkedIn account, I stared at their ad “You know what you are…#1 IT GUY!”
So I posted on Twitter, “…women your business is not wanted, Mac anyone?” and so on. And still nothing changed! Last night I tweeted the CEO of LinkedIn and let him know I was offended with a picture of the ad. Today the ad was not up (or rotated, only time will tell) and in it’s place was another senseless ad. *Note: The ad is back up, it simply had rotated.
Here’s the problem. I’ve attended IT meetups where I was told I didn’t belong because I was a woman. This ad I have such issues with, participated in perpetuating a false bias that there are no women in Technology. It’s ironic. I’ve been working in male dominated fields on and off since I was 18 years old, that’s over 30 years. From Army veteran, to security, to launching my own real estate company in Florida, to being the only woman on the block as I managed a motel in Central Alberta. I’ve been coding and designing for over 10 years and perhaps it’s a little arrogant of me to expect this, but here goes…
I, as a professional, as a woman, REQUIRE RESPECT. I’ve earned it.
Women are at times afraid to speak out for fear of “making waves”. I don’t have that problem. 50% of the companies I’ve worked for are today out of business. Turning properties around and helping companies cut expenses and diversify in order to generate profits and thrive in a downturn economy is what I am particularly good at and you don’t do that by keeping quiet nor worry about something as meaningless as a career track.
So I launched a magazine that was targeting 50% of the population that was being ignored by large media companies. One might say, in launching Sister Media a women’s business and survival magazine I am excluding men. Men are included in the articles, however, it is more on how to relate with them in tough circumstances of discrimination, workplace violence, intimidation, and sadly, marketing ‘faux pas’ among other issues.
However, at this junction, I do believe the CEO of LinkedIn and Toshiba owe women and especially women in technology an apology for their insulting misuse of female images to promote each other. It would be the civil thing to do. I’ve been wrong before, and I was not above posting a public apology on my own magazine. I would expect nothing less from another CEO.
As for Toshiba. I’ve owned a Toshiba laptop before. It kept crashing and I lost all of my research. I’ve never owned a Toshiba since. Just sayin’ .
Use your powers for good…not evil.