Researchers from Kedge Business School, University College Dublin, University of Bath, and University of Texas at Austin published a new Journal of Marketing article that examines how the socialization of researchers—especially their commitments to particular research values and practices—impacts the types and results of gender-based research published in top-tier marketing journals.
The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “The Past and Future of Gender Research in Marketing: Paradigms, Stances, and Value-Based Commitments” and is authored by Lisa Peñaloza, Andrea Prothero, Pierre McDonagh, and Kathrynn Pounders.
Worldwide patterns of love, work, parenting, and caring for the elderly, along with prominent social movements calling for workplace equity and positive gender representations in media, have altered conventional notions of gender roles. In recent times, two of the most prominent examples of gender expressions are the legalization of same-sex marriage and the freedom to transition across genders in an increasing number of nations.
These social transformations mean that many consumers are changing their attitudes toward style, social interaction, and entertainment. As a result, companies have been forced to reimagine their strategies, and marketers must accommodate a broadening array of gender identities and practices. For example, it is common to see ads featuring working mothers assisted by stay-at-home fathers, men using cleaning products and makeup, and retailers offering a range of gender-neutral products.
As Peñaloza explains, “Our international team examined academic papers on gender published in the top-tier marketing journals over the past 30 years. We find that a majority of research focuses on gender differences between men and women and gender traits, such as men are assertive while women focus on relationships. Also profiled is research on gender roles, such as relationships between husbands and wives, mother and fathers with daughter and sons, and studies where traditional assumptions of what it means to be a man or woman predominate.”
“Less than 10% of papers address the social construction of gender experiences and identities in examples such as stay-at-home fathers and women’s empowerment in engaging in DIY activities. There are few studies on sexuality, such as investigations of the consumption practices of LGBTQIA+ consumers,” continues Prothero. An even smaller number of papers explore gender injustice and violence (e.g., depictions of violence against women in advertisements as well as equality, diversity, and inclusion). The smallest category of studies consider how products and brands are “gendered” (i.e., how marketers and consumers attribute masculine and feminine characteristics to products and brands). The study concludes that the socialization and commitments to research values and practices is the reason why much of this research does not reflect contemporary society or marketing practice.
Differences Versus Similarities
“Our analysis shows that quantitative research methods predominate published research on gender and the focus on differences totally eclipses attention to similarities in research dealing with gender-based resource imbalances in societies,” claims McDonagh. Further, results show that most of the quantitative work on gender relies on convenience samples and that just under half of the convenience samples are comprised of college students. Given that students have higher education levels and fewer life experiences than the general adult population, the researchers question the representativeness and generalizability of research based on students in generating knowledge of gender in marketing and in society.
“We recommend that marketing researchers ensure their research methods include traditional and non-traditional, as well as gender fluid and non-binary, gender positions and roles to reflect contemporary society,” says Pounders. The researchers encourage academics and practitioners to address the ethical implications of their findings on gendered persons and marketing strategies. Such work might feature the societal impact of hiring retail staff with a particular “look” or physique, which would be a step to ensure that research published in top-tier marketing journals is in step with current gender expressions.
Lessons for Stakeholders
- For researchers: Describe similarities between genders and differences within genders; do not focus only on differences between men and women.
- For journal editors: Encourage diverse and innovative submissions.
- For reviewers: Demand contemporary scales in submissions investigating gender.
- For teachers: Include gender topics in classes on consumer behavior and marketing and write case studies that feature diverse genders and gender relations for these classes.
- For academic institutions: Incentivize gender research and related faculty innovations.
- For companies: Update thinking and methods to reflect evolving genders and gender relations in societies.
Overall, updating gender research to be more diverse and inclusive and to feature the impacts on gendered persons will make the findings more relevant to industry and to society, and result in marketing research for a better world.
Full article and author contact information available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/00222429231154532
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Journal of Marketing
The Past and Future of Gender Research in Marketing: Paradigms, Stances, and Value-Based Commitments
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