Why are we still sleeping on female creativity?
New studies have shown that females tend to be perceived as less creative and less capable of ingenious problem solving, when compared to men. Why does this perception still exist, and what is its effect on the female creatives of today?
Many countries around the world have made great strides with regards to promoting gender equality. However, there is still a long way to go when it comes to recognising and harnessing the ingenuity of female creatives in most fields, including the digital marketing one.
Historically, female innovators and creatives have had to struggle with unfair treatment due to their gender which has included ideas being stolen and contributions going widely unrecognised (as can be seen in the stories of many female inventors such as Rosalind Franklin and Elizabeth Magie). Nowadays, this lack of faith in female capabilities can be seen in limited support and access to funding and sponsorship- this leads many female professionals to eventually quit their jobs due to feelings of hitting a “dead-end” in their career.
According to anthropologist Margaret Mead, major changes in gender roles over the last few decades have brought up the question of “woman’s identity and the relationship between the feminine arts and feminine accomplishments”. Our inability to perceive women outside of traditional gender roles can still be seen in present day, with studies showing a tendency to perceive work as less creative if we think it has been created by a female. Furthermore, females tend to receive overall less positive, less constructive feedback if they’re working in one of the Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) fields.
Meanwhile, a study conducted in Ireland showed that although women scored higher in a digital skills test compared to their male counterparts, they are still widely underrepresented in the digital marketing field.
Despite the progress we’ve made when it comes to women’s rights, it’s clear that bias (believed and perpetuated by both men as well as women) continues to cast shadows of doubt over women’s ideas.
The confidence game
Many of these disparities are the result of not only society’s view on female creativity, but also the way in which women themselves doubt their own skills. The “confidence gap” between men and women has been well-documented over the years, and it is regarded by many as a key reason for the ongoing gender divide.
The solution to this may seem simple- all we have to do is build up confidence in women, right? According to a study conducted by Simard et al., many women are stuck in a Catch-22 situation known as a “double-bind”- wherein there are “penalised whether they exhibit less-aggressive styles or more-aggressive styles. The former clash with the culture and the latter are seen as inappropriate or inconsistent with stereotypical feminine characteristics”. In other words, when it comes to displaying confidence in the workplace, many women are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
The importance of female creativity
Females are behind many technological breakthroughs and innovations which we still reap the benefits of today- from the board game “Monopoly” to computers and stem cell isolation. It goes without saying that innovation by women contributes to a better life for all. Furthermore, ingenious inventions which address gender-based issues can greatly improve the quality of life for millions of women around the globe, especially those living in developing nations. Innovative technologies such as the Wonderbag and WaterWheel help these women by helping them re-claim their most precious commodity- their time. Such inventions also empower by showing that females are capable of finding solutions to the problems that they face.
In digital marketing terms, having female representation in one’s team contributes positively to any ad campaign by offering unique perspectives and insight into female consumers, thereby avoiding stereotyping in ad campaigns.
Lastly, although certain biological differences between men and women can be linked to differences in creativity and thought patterns, neither of these processes is better than the other and they actually tend to compliment each other. In fact, when it comes to generating new ideas and problem-solving, the more diversity of thought there is, the better.
By tapping into the abundant well of female creativity, companies and agencies can allow for more innovative ideas to be expressed and nurtured. So to all women, both in the marketing industry and beyond, we wish you a happy Women’s Month- your ideas are valuable and they are worthy of being heard.