Guilty of Being a Woman

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I don’t know if marketers consider themselves to be judges. They listen to their consumers’ “case”, they analyze data, then they try to keep that holier-than-thou arm’s length and objectivity, but in the end, isn’t there a moment that investigation meets intuition and experience and they pass judgment on what they believe is true?

I thought of this today as I read that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Already the fur is flying because of a comment she made about the influence of her gender and her Latin heritage on her decisions.

According to Charlie Savage’s piece in the New York Times, “Judge (Sonia) Sotomayor questioned the famous notion — often invoked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her retired Supreme Court colleague, Sandra Day O’Connor — that a wise old man and a wise old woman would reach the same conclusion when deciding cases.”

She said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” The article continued, “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences,” she said, for jurists who are women and nonwhite, “our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”

She added, “And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society.”

As women, we often worry whether there are too few female CEOS in corporations or whether too many creative directors at agencies are male, but do we look at where most of the decisions are made…the brand managers, the  moderators, the retailers and ask, do we ‘judge’ what’s true differently based on our personal experience? The politically correct answer is No, we are all just making smart decisions, equal, the same, humans, blah, blah, blah. True. But isn’t your insight different if you are working on a luxury brand and you grew up in a Gucci co-op versus a K-Mart mobile home? Or, if you’re writing ads for an acne product for girls and you were the one in the corner waiting for any young guy to ‘see’ you? Or if you are a mom of twins and you’re interviewing new moms who are overwhelmed?

Does your gender and ethnic background weigh in on the truth, as you see it? Is your insight clearer based on your experience? Are you a quicker take? Do you see nuances that someone who’s only ‘studied’ their way to your knowledge, can’t? We all want to think we don’t judge. We simply decipher or analyze or predict. But the Whole Truth is, the best marketers (and judges) are honest enough to listen to their hearts and instincts too. Our differences can make all the difference.

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by Mary Lou Quinlan

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