Men were from Mars, Women from Venus…

The gender game is a subtle but powerful one. The fundamental difference between the sexes has been the subject of much debate, research and humour.

The opportunities to capitalise on a real understanding of the psyche of the consumer in all its richness are great – including gender differences. But it is dangerous territory. No one can afford to play the gender game and lose.

Today, I’d like to talk about segmentation.
We all engage in ‘segmentation’ – when we meet someone for the first time, we segment – male or female? Old or young? It helps us orientate ourselves and build expectations until we know more…

If you are told your new boss’s name is Joe. What’s your first question? Is there an ‘e’? Is it a male or female? Of course, once you get to know and work with your new boss, other issues will become much more important – is he/she focused on cost cutting or growth? Is he/she a ‘big picture’ kind of person – or is it all about the detail? Does he/she value your unique contribution or see you as a threat, or part of the old guard? These deeper issues very quickly become much more important than gender.

Of course, how you deal with the issues, and your new boss, will continue to be ‘nuanced’ by gender – yours and his or hers.

However, the real gender debate is more dynamic and more fundamental. It is rooted in society’s needs, wants and expectations. At Roy Morgan Research we’ve been studying these things for years. In the 1940s, Roy Morgan asked questions about equal pay for men and women, whether women should be allowed to wear shorts in the street, and the age at which girls should be allowed to wear lipstick. The questions tell us as much about society at that time as the answers do. Some things change …. So let’s look briefly at some trends.

The last 20 years or so have seen dramatic changes in gender roles – more women in the workforce, in senior decision-making positions, more two-income families, shared household, family and child-rearing responsibilities, more sole parent families both male and female.

The weekly shop is on the decline and more people are shopping every day, and men are enjoying grocery shopping (at least the increasing number of grocery-buying men). So are women. It is not that men are becoming ‘home’ conscious or nesting (their magazine habits tell us that), it is that they are more interested in food.

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