Sexist marketing – see it – call it out. It works

by Sep 2, 2017

It takes time and energy to call out sexist marketing policies

But it seems to be worth it.

I’m a bit of a Twitter addict as you know and believe in the power of social media. I’ve become increasingly aware of how more and more people are calling out sexism in the public domain and how the offending organisation reacts. Was August a particularly bad month for sexist marketing or did I just notice it more?

Dolly Babe vs Leader

It kicked of with Clark shoes. For the uninitiated this is a company that specialises in children’s shoes and is a go-to shop for back to school wear. Just one snag, this year’s range had a very sexist marketing policy. The boys’ shoes were called “Leader” and the girls were called “Dolly Babe”. I kid you not. School age girls are neither dolls or babies. There’s also something faintly sexual about the word “babe.” There was a significant backlash on both social media and regular media and the offending items are said to be under discussion, pending analysis of customer feedback.  Sadly they are still on sale at some outlets.

This makes me think which marketing genius came up with this gem? Which century are they living in? One wonders if the notion of benevolent sexism ever crossed their minds and how long they actually took to come up with an idea that would be so damaging for young girls?  Was it part of a carefully constructed strategy, where a team pitched their vision at a corporate offsite retreat onto a white board? Girls as young as 6 believe that boys are more brilliant than they are. With this nonsense in the shops and on their feet, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

And kudos to the Mums who called it out. It takes time and produces at best defensive eye rolling from the perpetrators, and worse bad attitude, but it needs to be done.

Read: The silly season for sexism


Next up was the Billabong ad. Their ad shows swim wear or active wear for women and men quite differently. Only the guy is actually surfing! Once again there was a backlash and the website picture was changed. You now see a female surfer rather than a babe on a beach in a rather languid and pointless stretch. I mean who does that on a beach?

The National Trust

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, known as the National Trust, is a UK conservation organisation in and the largest membership organisation in the country. So I was more than a little surprised to see a tweet from George Galloway with a picture of a pink hat (of course) from their Tatton Park shop with the text “Future Footballers Wife,” with no punctuation.

It appears that Tatton Park is managed by Cheshire East Council and I was delighted to see the response below. I also suggested that their Procurement Manager had unconscious bias training. The National Trust responded personally to every one of the tweets which is very sweet!

Gender switch

I’m glad to see that there are some who realise how ridiculous this is and especially love the send up of sexist marketing with the Dudeoir Calendar. 


Dudeoir calendar

So while we focus on bias and sexism on the talent pipeline in terms of recruitment and promotion, we also need to pay attention to the sexist marketing drivel that is being pumped into our cultures on a daily basis. The same people who go through these trainings need to check their biases when doing their actual jobs. This can be in marketing, advertising, procurement, design, event management, journalism or any other part of business and cultural life.

If you struggle with any aspect of sexist marketing,  gender switch the idea. How do you think your son would feel to have shoes called “Dolly Babe.” Exactly


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Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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