Joanne Thomas Yaccato of the Thomas Yaccato Group is an expert at her job, which she jokes is “whacking marketing managers upside the head about the importance of women.”

As she told the group of women at a “power breakfast” I attended, we control 80 per cent of consumer dollars spent in the industrial world, but we feel profoundly disconnected from the very companies attempting to sell to us.

Why is that? You have only to look at advertising to see examples of how women are ignored or trivialized:

  • Half the world’s business travellers are women, yet a print ad Joanne saw for a hotel was headlined, “Right away, sir.”
  • An insurance company provided terrific customer service, yet blew away any goodwill with a file-closing letter that began, “Dear sir.”

If not ignored – or portrayed in advertising as shrews, nags, bimbos, decoration and worse – women are just not taken seriously.

Some years ago I was looking for a new car, and made the mistake of visiting a showroom with my husband. The salesman was happy to tell me about girly things like comfort and colour, but when he talked about the engine and lifted the hood, he completely ignored me and talked directly to Mike. He was right that I wasn’t planning on doing my own maintenance, but he was wrong in assuming Mike was, or that Mike was paying the bill. I was insulted enough that I went to a different dealership, by myself, and bought a different car.

Oh sure, men aren’t happy with sales and marketing either; but their problems are likely with inferior products or lame salespeople (and possibly being seen as morons in the kitchen). But they know just how many ads directly target them, and there are so many: all the ones with zooming cars, attractive women flocking around beer drinkers, nudge-nudge wink-wink ads for Viagra and the like. They also aren’t the ones who believe how they are portrayed is important; women do.

At the end of Joanne’s presentation, she pointed out that using what she calls a “gender lens” (the female perspective) will help companies get it right with women, which leads to a solid increase in sales and market share.

The funny thing is, there’s a straight-line connection between getting it right with women and getting it right with everyone.