I’ve always been a strong advocate of diversity and equality, and I often ask myself what can I do to ensure our content marketing reflects this? This article outlines our process and thoughts, which we hope encourages discussion and awareness.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know we are very keen to encourage diversity and equality in teams across the globe. We’ve written previously why diversity works positively for employee engagement and even penned an entire article on the topic, with the post, Benefits of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace.
I’ve spent my working life surrounded by colleagues of different cultural, religious and professional backgrounds. I enjoy the fact that I live in a diverse society, and that the people I employ have always reflected this. As a business owner, I want to ensure that I meet my obligations to the wider community in many different aspects, and diversity and equality is one that I can ensure I have a positive impact in.
Sadly, however, in 2017 the majority of marketing and advertising still has plenty of examples of bias.
In this recent research, Unpacking Gender Bias in Advertising, they found in advertising, that;
- There are twice as many male characters in ads than female characters.
- 25% of ads feature men only, while only 5% of ads feature women only.
- 18% of ads feature only male voices, while less than 3% of ads featuring female voices only.
If we all did our part to change this, wouldn’t that have a positive impact? I like to think so.
In our business, we have 6 males and 4 females. The two management positions are occupied by one male and one female. There is a gender pay difference of less than 2.2% between women and men (when calculating at FT rates).
So, as business people, and marketers, how can we ensure we promote diversity in any marketing that we produce?
The most obvious way to encourage diversity and equality in our content marketing is by our choice of words. Where we do use pronouns to describe people in examples of role or organisation structure, we do our best to either completely avoid words that reflect gender, or we try and split the female and male pronouns evenly.
This recent article, 5 Great Reasons Why Happiness Increases Productivity, manages to avoid any gender pronouns. Instead, we use terms like ‘the manager’ or ’employees’. The image in this article shows a woman in a business attire, and has no prompts at all to bias between an employee or a manager.
In the article, How to Encourage Management to Improve your Company Culture for example, we use the gender pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’ to describe the manager.
These are small things, however I feel that it helps negate any unconscious bias people may have.
We take it even further with work settings and roles. Since we are a global product, and have people in all sorts of situations – burger bars through to engineering firms, across a number of continents, we need to be mindful to avoid assumptions that all of our customers are desk bound executives.
When we do discuss work, we interchange phrases such as ‘workplace’ or ‘environment’ instead of just ‘desk’ or ‘office’.
…ads that feature gender stereotypes have the potential to cause harm by contributing to unequal gender outcomes.
– Advertising Standards Authority
When we use images in our content, we try and find images that are reflective of diversity and equality. This can be a challenge at times, when faced with stock photo websites that often are very restrictive in choice, and tend to show fair skinned people much of the time.
In fact, I searched the phrase ‘Business Manager’ on one of the most popular stock image websites. The first page, depicting the first 35 results, had only one non-white person in any of the images.
It goes beyond just trying to find equal amounts of female and male images, or diverse skin tones. There are plenty of other subtle elements, such as images showing two people in a professional setting – we actively try and find images depicting a female manager with a male subordinate, or two people of the same gender.
I accept it is impossible to show diversity in sexual preferences or languages in an image. We generally don’t cover topics or situations where we need to describe any form of personal relationships, so sexual diversity isn’t an issue for us.
We are also mindful to try and avoid slang or local colloquialisms – I’m based in Australia, so it is very easy to introduce Australian terms such as ‘mate’or ‘g’day’ (Yes, it’s true; we actually say these words!). We stick to Commonwealth English, because that is our major language here, however we try our best to avoid using words that show our differences, such as ‘petrol’ (Australia) and ‘gas’ (USA).
As an aside; it seems Americans don’t use the phrase ‘fortnight’; hence why we use two weekly when discussing a survey frequency of every 14 days.
Whilst much of our marketing is concentrated on our blog posts right here, we also do a fair amount of sharing and engagement on a number of social media platforms.
We undertake all the same thoughts as I have mentioned above, and a few more, specific to real time communication platforms like social media.
We nearly always avoid references to specific faiths where we can. For example, we don’t say Merry Christmas or Ramadan Mubarak or other faith specific greetings. I feel when it comes to diversity and equality, we either celebrate 100 different religious events or important dates, or keep them out of our content marketing altogether.
A common mistake I see many companies do, is have statuses that start with ‘Good morning!’ or ‘Good afternoon!’. Much of the time, we are many time zones away form our audience, so we always avoid these as well.
Take a look at the current crop of marketing from some of our biggest brands and you would be forgiven for thinking that we live in a white, middle class, straight society.
– Advertising’s lack of diversity stifles creativity
Tips to review your content marketing
Review your recent content marketing that you’ve produced. If there are any images of people are they diverse in;
- Cultural background
- Physical ability
Now, look at any genders that you describe, or ages or workplaces. Are they varied, and do you give equal roles (if described) for both genders? Watch out specifically for roles that many people often assume are dominated by one gender, and use different gender descriptions to reverse the trend.
There are very few, if any, marketing or communication scenarios where you need to point out someone’s race or ethnic background. Content marketers should avoid describing people in racial and ethnic terms at all costs.
Avoid using local slang, unless you only target a local market. As a global company, we have happy customers in over a dozen countries, and work hard not to alienate them.
I feel that we can always do better to embrace more diversity and equality in our content and our marketing, and will continue to explore ways to do so. By penning my thoughts in this article, I hope that we help raise your awareness of diversity and equality in content marketing, and that, if anything, we start a conversation about it.
I’m keen to hear ways that you encourage diversity in your communications – share your best advice with us on Twitter, by tweeting us @team6Q.