Christmas is in full bloom. Where I live here in Southern California, there’s no shortage of diverse Christmas décor. You can’t drive anywhere without passing houses festooned with obnoxiously mismatched light color schemas (makes you look back on the 80’s neon craze as “not that bad after all”) and giant-sized lawn inflatables of every animal that ever walked the earth – with Santa. People here find the need to decorate everything. Cars disguised as reindeer (like we don’t know that’s really a car) transport lush green fir trees that will be fire hazards by Christmas. The only type of flakes that are swirling around in the air are ash from all the fires raging all over Southern California.
It’s not exactly a winter wonderland.
What I find most annoying, though, are the retailers and the sexism they exhibit in their ads targeting parents of teenagers. In trying to get a better idea of gifts for my 13-year old, Margaret, I Googled “gifts for 13-year old kids.” At the top of the list of results was an ad from Amazon for best sellers. I clicked on it and it brought me to a list of gift ideas for 13-year old boys on Amazon.
At the top was a bestselling book called Manual to Manhood. Nope, not for Margaret. The second was a 3D strategy board game. Yup, Margaret would love this. Third on the list was an infrared laser tag game. Yup. National Geographic science kit. Yup. Mr. Root Beer Home Brewing Root Beer Kit. Unknown. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Yup. A ball game sports set. Maybe. And more science-Y stuff. Yup, yup, yup.
Out of curiosity, I changed my search on Amazon to “gift ideas for 13-year old girls” not at all thinking there would be much of a difference.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was horrified.
The first-page list results were completely different.
Outside of a 3D puzzle that looks like an elephant and a National Geographic science kit, the list was comprised of glitter nail art, LED lighting gloves, a purse, a sing or shout song game, a princess castle, a watercolor paint set of an aquarium, a jewelry box, and a pink frisbee ring.
No books or manuals on maturing into adulthood or how to become a successful business person. No ball game or sports sets. No brewing kits. And only 1 science kit.
I’m not someone who believes that boys and girls have the same interests. I have friends with fraternal boy/girl twins who have watched their kids grow up in the same environment but who have naturally gravitated toward some more gender-based interests.
In addition, as an experienced marketing professional with an MBA who has taught business and management courses at the college level for over 7 years, I completely understand and appreciate results-driven marketing. But I find it unjustified for retailers to push gender-based gifts the way they do. Yes, I understand they’ve invested in market research that “justifies” these tactics. But I don’t buy it (pun intended) for one moment. Here’s why:
STEM: Slightly more than 50% of women earn bachelor degrees in science and engineering fields. This proves there is just as much interest in STEM on behalf of females as males.
Sports: Though statistics suggest girls drop out of sports at an alarmingly high rate by the time they reach age 14, it doesn’t mean they aren’t still interested in sports as a leisure activity. Over 50% of girls participate in sports from age 5 to fifteen compared to 62% of boys. Not significantly more.
Business: Women are making leaps and bounds as entrepreneurs and expanding their roles in industry.
So here’s my message to retailers: Fire your market research firms. Make 2018 the year that you start to invest in teenage girls because of who they are today and their wildly profitable potential tomorrow.