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Women's History Month

It’s true that women share a great deal in common and experience many of the same life events-from puberty, to marriage, to childbirth, to aging parent care, and educational/career advancement, just to name a few. However, while we may all move through these events, our culture and heritage play key roles in how we experience these moments and how we respond to the challenges associated with each life event. Women are not monolithic; we are deeply shaped by our traditions, customs, and ethnicity.

One example that comes to mind is how women of different cultures respond to new employee recruitment messages. A “flexible work environment”, for example, may be the right motivator for a Caucasian mother entering the workforce, but it is not necessarily the prime motivator for all women candidates.

  • Among African Americans, being in control of one’s destiny and doing so in a way that will garner both self-respect and the respect of others in the community are important motivational themes. Messages that reinforce the idea that joining a company is a great way to build a future filled with opportunities for advancement, recognition, and reward are effective because they inspire hope for a positive future.
  • Among Latinas, the concepts of “family” and “collective advancement” are important motivational messages. The opportunity to pursue educational goals, to generate wealth, and to participate in the “American Dream” for the benefit they will accrue to the family are important communication pillars for Latinas-particularly un acculturated or first generation Latinas. They are passionate about maintaining a strong nuclear and extended family unit.
  • Among Asians, themes that reinforce association with companies that have a track record of success and produce high quality, reputable products/services are important. They provide affirmation of having made a smart decision in joining a particular firm due to a long history of dependable, stable quality and performance.

Other more obvious examples of how messages can be shaped to reflect the cultural richness of American women are in relation to beauty, personal care, and fashion. Ethnicity and physiology affect women’s purchase decisions in hair care, cosmetics, skin care, and apparel. Brands must clearly communicate that their products are formulated with the unique needs of women of color in mind and that they have credibility as a brand that understands the importance of personal appearance among women of color-African American and Latina, in particular. Cultural values-whether they are “modesty” in attire as a Middle Eastern Muslim woman, the celebration of one’s “femininity” as a Latina woman, or the confidence to be a fashion trend setter among African American women-these must be integrated into the message. Brands-whether they are consumable products or services-are experienced through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity. Advertising, product concepts, package design, promotional messages, and selling strategies are either understood, or misunderstood through this filter.

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