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Why They Buy Module #5: Gender Roles and Marketing

——   Created by Michael Solomon

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Gender identity is an important component of a consumer’s self-concept. People often conform to their culture’s expectations about how those of their gender should act, dress, or speak; we refer to these sets of expectations as sex roles. Of course, these guidelines change over time, and they differ radically across societies. Recently an Italian man filed a complaint about his wife with the police, leading the 40-year-old woman to face the formal charge of “mistreatment of the family.” He accused his wife of “bad management of domestic affairs” after two years of neglect, including an unwillingness to cook and clean. American husbands, do not try this at home! In this module, we'll look at how the messages our society sends us about gender identity exert a very powerful impact on many buying decisions. 

The course project

Many advertisers routinely purchase stock photography when they need an image of a certain kind of person to insert in an ad. Many photos of women reflect common stereotypes, ranging from the crisp businesswoman who wears a suit and glasses and holds a briefcase to the smiling mother who pours milk into cereal bowls for her kids at breakfast.


Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive who is an advocate for women in business, started an organization called Lean In to promote leadership. Lean In has now partnered with Getty Images, one of the biggest stock photography companies, to offer an image collection that represents women differently. The new collection depicts women as surgeons, painters, bakers, soldiers and hunters. There are girls riding skateboards and women lifting weights 

 Look through a sample of current magazines and collect images of women. To what extent do they represent a range of roles? Categorize these images according to the type of product advertised and the situation the photo depicts (e.g., multitasking woman holding a tablet and a baby, happy homemaker, etc.). Based on what you find, what messages do our media give us about gender roles today?

8 Lessons

9 mins
Lesson 5.1: Gender roles drives consumption
11 mins
Lesson 5.2: Definitions of sex roles are a work in progress
6 mins
Lesson 5.3: Body image and self-esteem
6 mins
Lesson 5.4: Ideals of beauty change over time
5 mins
Lesson 5.5: How Marketers contribute to a woman's body image
5 mins
Lesson 5.6: Ideals of male beauty
5 mins
Lesson 5.7: Marketing and body modification
2 mins
Lesson 5.8: Module review

About the instructor

Michael Solomon

Hello, I'm Michael. Here's some background about me and what I do:

Michael “wrote the book” on understanding consumers. Literally. Hundreds of thousands of business students …

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