Can Only Women Excel In Marketing to Women?

There's a false assumption that floats freely around that marketing to women "space"—that marketing to women must be handled by women. That may well keep a lot of more traditionally male-oriented industries or brands (or men in those companies) from taking the leap, and learning more about the ways women buy. Why should they bother if marketing to women is a woman's thing? But, like I said, that is a false assumption. And recent media discussions of leadership and gender made me see some marketing team implications as well.

As Getting to 50/50 co-author Sharon Meers put it in a "Room for Debate" post on the New York Times blog:

So here's the real question: How to make the positive qualities we see in female managers more common in men—and more useful to all? A new report from Catalyst shows how companies win when we escape the idea that men and women are so different and work harder to get on the same page—so that men and women bring out the best in each other sharing the same C-suite.

The same goes for building teams or finding leaders with regard to marketing to women. What you are looking for are those qualities women tend to have that make them "transformational leaders." According to Gary N. Powell who also contributed his thoughts to that NYT blog post:

Transformational leadership includes charisma (communicating the purpose and importance of a mission and serving as a role model), inspirational motivation (exuding optimism and excitement about the mission's attainability), intellectual stimulation (encouraging others to think out of the box), and individualized consideration (focusing on the development and mentoring of subordinates as individuals).

Are any of those things gender-specific? No. Men, indeed, have the potential to have charisma, exude optimism, be able to encourage others and be interested in mentorship programs. It just may mean training the right side of their brains into action a bit more (as per Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind). Of course—there is the "vice versa" too—that women who lack some of the more typically male qualities of leadership can get the training or learn from colleagues, as well.

In marketing, smart people with years of experience in the field (and there are many) can see what works and why. If we leave gender out of the label for what the positive qualities are, we may more likely get men and women on the same page, and on the way to the same productivity levels with regard to their understanding of the women's market.

So, no. It is not only women who can excel in marketing to women. Instead, those women may be where you go first to guide/educate others in the qualities that lead toward a better understanding of how women buy. Just like marketers should be guided and inspired by the women they serve (as in transparent marketing), so too should people in marketing be guided and inspired by the women who more naturally understand today's marketplace. That's how women and men working together will bring out the very best in their team's marketing abilities.