Are we all a bit blasé about sexism? The suffragettes at the beginning of the twentieth century struck the fatal blow and feminists finished the job in the seventies, didn’t they? Now all we need to worry about is whether Kim Kardashian’s revealing selfies are an example of girl power or letting the side down.
Perhaps it’s all too easy to think the job is done and indeed a few stories that have appeared recently show that some brands, who should know better, and some antediluvian organisations (which probably have no idea what a brand is) can get caught up in some good old fashioned sexism and damaging PR to boot when they least expect it.
First we have some recent research by The Times which revealed that many products across a variety of sectors have different prices depending on whether they are aimed at a male or female audience. A disposable razor, a ballpoint pen or a children’s scooter will often command a higher price point in pink than in blue.
Then there is the first immutable law of advertising: sex sells – and it is generally the ‘fairer sex’ we are talking about, just look at pretty much any Lynx ad if you need to refresh your memory.
And now, perhaps we have a ray of enlightened hope as global financial brand HSBC sticks up for women’s rights in this week’s press highlights. The majority of the UK’s 3,000 golf clubs have been pretty change resistant over the years but now it looks like the last few ‘men only’ bastions amongst them might eventually be crumbling. This week the gentlemen of The Royal Troon Golf Club are having a vote on whether or not to welcome female members ahead of their scheduled hosting of the prestigious 2016 Open Championship later this year.
Good news, but why now exactly?
Well, The Open is at last showing its support for the women who constitute 14% of Britain’s 1.2 million golf club members. By doing so they are backing up their sponsor HSBC which has declared it will not support clubs on the Open host roster that continue to have a single sex policy.
Royal St George’s, also on the nine strong rota, voted last year to admit women members and Muirfield controversially voted earlier this year to maintain their ban on women, a decision that has put them off the rota for good.
Some may say that Troon’s decision to have a vote is probably more motivated by not wanting to lose The Open as a partner (along with the money involved) than it is by supporting equal rights.
However, one thing is for sure, the publicity that the club has been attracting, even before reaching a decision, is far from good.
While the rest of us believe that equality is a no brainer, Troon’s members apparently have to go through some considerable due diligence and soul searching to reach the same conclusion. Like many of the UK’s clubs they don’t seem to understand that even a moment’s hesitation on an issue like this looks bad. They only need to look at the negative broadside Muirhead received from the press, activists, pro golfers and even the Prime Minister to help them to reach the right decision.
As Golf is about to become an Olympic sport in 2016, die hard attitudes don’t sit well with the sport at all. Indeed the preference to keep golf a male-only bastion is not just old fashioned but frankly embarrassing, as British golfer Rory McIlroy recently pointed out by urging clubs to “see sense”.
Organisations that discriminate, whether they are a golf club saying a firm “no” to women members, or Price Waterhouse Cooper insisting receptionists wear high heels, will inevitably reap a whirlwind of negative opinion and need some serious marketing assistance to protect them from serious harm.
Thank god that corporate sponsors like HSBC are better informed about how the world works in the 21st century. As a brand they clearly have a well defined approach to issues like equality and they know what society expects of them.