THE BLOG

Gender Equality and Diversity: Inspiring Women to Vote

14/04/2015 10:40 BST | Updated 09/06/2015 10:59 BST

For me, the last couple of months there has been a lot of reflection on issues of gender equality and diversity.

I recently attended a couple of great events around women in Leadership which were designed to nurture and grow senior women to progress up and through the organisation. I also attended a launch event for a new group of senior women whose ambition is to positively impact the growth of women in our business and in turn to impact the growth of the business overall. Sarah Brown was the speaker, talking about her passion for getting females across the world into education.

And of course last month we celebrated International Women's Day with a theme of 'Make it Happen'. For me one of the most pressing things to 'Make Happen' here in the UK over the next two months is to persuade women to vote in the forthcoming elections.

There has been a lot of attention around the staggering statistic that women are significantly less certain then men on whether they will vote in the upcoming elections - 65% of men say they will definitely vote compared to 55% of women. On top of this, a recent poll on Women's Hour also revealed that almost one in four women aged 18-34 (24%) are unlikely to vote in the election.

The survey highlighted that over a third of women (35%) don't know who they will vote for in the General Election, which is 10% higher than men (25%). Women under 34 are the least certain about how they will vote and more than 4 in 10 don't know.

This news doesn't surprise me at all and now it seems that instead of inspiring women to vote for the desired party, both the Conservatives and Labour seem to be floundering around with embarrassing initiatives targeted at women voters that simply make us cringe. Whether it be to get on Labour's Barbie pink bus with Harriet Harman (in my opinion this initiative was quite simply naff and patronising - as I'm sure a lot of women agree) - or the opportunity to go shoe shopping with Theresa May, why would I - or any other woman come to that - want to spend my precious spare time doing either of these?

These women should know better. It's even more disconcerting when a lack of understanding about women and their needs seems to be coming from the female politicians themselves. Women want authentic representation and many currently feel that politics is 'laughable' and a 'lie'. I'm not sure that it matters who represents them as long as it's someone who they feel understands the difficulties in their lives and can speak for, and defend them.

The professionalisation of politics has resulted in a Government that has nothing to do with the majority of the population - we don't think they understand our everyday lives, how women bear the brunt of supporting their families, how 60 per cent of women have to work and look after the elderly and their grandchildren - and therefore many women don't believe that political party policies can possibly reflect the real lives of women.

My view is that the female presence is still peripheral in British Politics - we simply don't feel that the political parties can possibly understand us because so few of our MPs are female. However, as we all know, getting women into politics isn't an easy thing. I am not a fan of all female shortlists. Rather I think the culture of Parliament has to change from an old boy's club to a modern day institution open to all. The parties need to be connecting with women from an early age - putting themselves where young women will find them, making politics and political debate accessible to young people.

In my experience as a CEO of a leading branding agency it's become quite clear that brands are leaps ahead of political parties in connecting with women. Brands today celebrate women. Marketing campaigns such as 'This Girl Can' by Sport England, and 'Like a Girl' from Always empower women because they are authentic, realistic and refreshing. Each political party is essentially a brand, so why aren't they doing the same?

And it's not just brands that target women that are doing it better than the political parties. Brands such as Nike target their communications to men and women in a different way, whilst always staying true to their brand essence and positioning.

None of us are clear any more exactly what the political parties stand for. Everything has converged into one big mush. Really successful brands are truly distinctive, meaningful and memorable. The political parties need to be crystal clear about what they stand for, why they are different. Once they have done that they need to listen more and then tailor and target their communications to different audiences - fundamentally it needs to be one message tailored to the needs of their different audiences.

And successful brands are truly believable - they are a promise which they consistently fulfil. Politicians need to take a leaf out of their book.

Brands today permeate our social space, delivering tailored, desirable content and information to us. Politics fail to do this. Brands work hard to seduce us, whilst political organisations believe that we should be seduced without working hard to do so.