Focus groups with female voters are returning the same answers: women voters just do not believe the traditional party leaders are interested in their views or concerns.
There are a lot of votes to be won among the female electorate if only the parties could provide a more compelling brand image.
Women are less likely to vote and, when they do vote, they are less loyal to any single party.
Here are some of the issues parties could be addressing if they want build a compelling brand that connects with women:
Mainstream ‘women’s issues’
Issues that affect women are often spoken about as ‘women’s issues’ by ‘women’s ministers’. The message relayed to women is that the issues that contribute to their inequality in society are marginal. Our discussions with voters over the past few months showed that women experience inequality as anything but marginal. It has a fundamental economic implication in their working lives.
Inequality as an economic issue
Women are most likely to have been affected by the current austerity measures. They are mostly employed in public sector jobs, temporary jobs and low-paid work. But the sense of being in a precarious economic situation extends beyond women in this demographic. Across the spectrum, women are very aware that careers stall when they become mothers. It is a key reason given for the UK’s low representation of women in senior positions. Women who take time out to raise children often face barriers to get back into work, let alone climb the ladder. And 50,000 women in the UK are estimated to have faced dismissal because of a pregnancy. The common theme of these experiences for women is not that they ‘happen to other women’ but that they have a personal impact on their financial wellbeing and economic stability. Messaging about inequality needs to speak to a personal desire for economic stability.
Parties need to be an aspirational brand for women
We know as marketeers that visual representations speak volumes. Party leaders are still the core of party brand identity. They not only need to speak to the issues that affect women; more of them need to be women. There is brand equity in having more women in leadership roles. Voters, male and female, say that more women in cabinet increases their likelihood to trust that party on the economy. There is also an aspirational appeal in seeing 'people like us’ in positions that matter.
In our own creative campaign we have created a world in which the argument for equality is mainstream, about good business practice, economic and aspirational. We think the political parties should follow suit.
Anita Nayyar is the founder of The Equality Movement and a former gender policy advisor to Hazel Blears.