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Feb 17 2023

International Women’s Day 2023: Marketing and Female Empowerment

The 8th of March will see all of us joining in the celebration of International Women’s Day, where all around the world, people come together to raise awareness about discrimination against women while commending great female achievements.


So, with that in mind, I thought this would be a great chance to talk about the relationship between female empowerment and marketing. I’ll look into how it all began and dig down into some of the women who helped mould the marketing industry into what it is today.


I’ll also explore what marketing looks like in the modern world and what progress has been made in representing women in the industry as marketers and consumers.


How it all began…

Marketing has been around as long as people have had products or services to sell and people to buy them, and women have always been a crucial part of it. It’s important to remember, though, in what was historically male-dominated, the representation of women in marketing wasn’t always a constructive one.


Well into the 20th century, ads depicting women as weak, subservient or incapable were commonplace, highlighting the prevalence of men in the marketing and advertising sectors. However, over time, the representations of women in marketing began to change, and gradually the messages became more supportive and inclusive. This was thanks in no small part to the prominence of some key women in marketing, who helped bring about the much-needed progress.


Pioneers of female marketing

Female empowerment has experienced slow but steady growth in marketing for over a century, and these five women were at the heart of the change.


Mathilde C. Weil

Way back in 1880, Mathilde founded the M.C. Weil Agency in New York. She opened for business years before J. Walter Thompson, often cited as establishing the first advertising agency, entered operation. Yet, little is known about Mathilde, which indicates the adversity she must have overcome as a businesswoman in the 1800s.


Helen Lansdowne Resor

Hired by J. Walter Thompson, Helen formulated the iconic ‘a skin you love to touch’ ad for Woodbury’s Facial Soap in 1917. Her ability to entice customers with ‘risqué’ (though tame by modern standards) print advertisements makes her a key figure in copywriting development. She finished her career as Vice President of the J. Walter Thompson company and was a lifelong supporter of female empowerment and representation.

A skin you love to touch women in marketing - International Women's Day 2023: Marketing and Female Empowerment

Image Credit: Saturday Evening Post


Bernice Fitz-Gibbon

Bernice, born on a farm in rural Wisconsin, worked her way up from a local newspaper secretary to being one of the key marketing figures at Macy’s. Credited with introducing fashion show demonstrations into department stores, she later founded her own advertising company and, in the mid-1950s, was known as the highest-paid woman in marketing.


Caroline Robinson Jones

Caroline was the first person of colour to rise to the position of senior copywriter at the J. Walter Thompson Company before assuming the role of Vice President of Zebra Associates in 1968. She used celebrity endorsement to develop KFC’s famous ‘we do chicken right’ slogan in the 1980s and worked with Mcdonald’s and Toys R Us.


Mary Wells Lawrence

Mary trained at Macy’s under Bernice Fitz-Gibbon in the 1950s to become their fashion advertising manager. Later in her career, she founded her own company: Wells, Rich and Green. Mary developed marketing campaigns, including Flick your Bic, Plop Plop Fizz Fizz for Alka-Seltzer and the world-famous ‘I ♥ N Y’ tourism slogan and logo with graphic designer Milton Glaser.


I heart NY female marketing logo - International Women's Day 2023: Marketing and Female Empowerment

Image Credit: The Culture Trip


How far have we come?

The progress started by these iconic women in marketing inspired a change in thought. The result is that numerous brands now prioritise female empowerment and representation in their marketing campaigns.


Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign

In our blog about Our Favourite Marketing Campaigns of 2022, we spoke about Dove’s representation of women and girls in marketing. Their dedication to female empowerment saw them overbid against keywords used by negative advertisers to monetise low self-esteem in women and launch interactive ads that allowed viewers to ‘fix’ unhealthy body-image advertisements.


Nike’s ‘Dream Crazier’ Campaign

This 2020 video ad featured Serena Williams discussing emotions that every elite athlete experiences and explaining how they’re branded as ‘dramatic’ and ‘over-emotional’ for women. Serena highlights how women are considered ‘crazy’ for wanting equality in sports before listing record-breaking female achievements. The ad ends with encouraging women to ‘Dream Crazier,’ a clever and poignant statement on female empowerment.


Women in marketing

It’s not just the adverts themselves that empower women in modern marketing, as female marketers are redefining the industry itself every day. A 2019 study found that female marketer leadership is at an ‘all-time high’, with women making up 64% of the industry. While women only make up 39% of marketing leadership roles in the UK, this is still comfortably above the 30% average in cross-sector representation. This positive representation of women shows no sign of changing, with 21% of women saying they’d consider a career in marketing vs 16% of men.


female manager marketing team - International Women's Day 2023: Marketing and Female Empowerment

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As our Commercial Director, Rosie keeps you in the One2create loop. Dishing out advice like there’s no tomorrow, you’ll be the first to know when it comes to getting better business opportunities with her insightful nuggets of info.

  • Marie

    For me, Marjorie Hillis is another example of woman in marketing back in 20th century. I can’t say she did exactly marketing job, but her book captions would be great even for today’s articles – Live Alone and Like It, and Live Smartly on What You Have (writing it as a Contenteam SEO writer). She was a Vogue editor if I’m not mistaken. Also, Agatha Christie – she managed to earn enough money and reputation on her writing.

    10th March 2023 at 11:03 am
    • EC 150x150 - International Women's Day 2023: Marketing and Female Empowerment

      Thanks for your comment! We’ll check out Marjorie Hillis, and agree Agatha Christie is amazing!

      27th April 2023 at 11:10 am

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