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What's your gender quotient?

To be successful in healthcare marketing you need to be gender intelligent

A blue male figure next to a pink female figureThe IQ test has been around since the 19th century and Christopher Earley and Soon Ang started the Cultural Quotient (CQ) trend in 2003. But whatever happened to the Gender Quotient (GQ)?

If our globalised world can hail cultural intelligence as a key metric of an individual's success in business environments, how can it be that it has by-and-large failed to gauge success in understanding the greatest divider of the human race – gender?

The answer of course is one of novelty. Living through a communications revolution that is fundamentally changing the nature of the global economy has led to a fixation with keeping up, with developed markets acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to move into previously undiscovered territories. Amidst the frantic activity of global growth and cultural education, gender it appears, has fallen out of vogue. After all, it's been around for as long as we can remember... so, we have it all figured out, right?

If the societal and economic roles of men and women hadn't changed dramatically over previous decades then I would be inclined to agree. However, the facts speak for themselves. Against the backdrop of globalisation, women's income has rocketed, men's income has stabilised, marriage rates have fallen, divorce rates have risen significantly and, more recently, we've seen the emergence of a whole new familial figure – the 'stay at home Dad'. The reality is that gender roles are changing and are as variable as those of culture and if we fail to pay attention to that, we are also failing to understand and truly reach our target audiences, whoever they might be.

For healthcare marketers, the rewards of gender intelligence are significant. Though severely underleveraged, the fact that women have the fastest growing influence over healthcare is widely acknowledged. As healthcare consumers, women influence up to 80 per cent of purchasing decisions for their households. Almost all physician assistants, nurses and nurse practitioners are now female and by 2025, it is said that women will represent half of all physicians.

Women are the main caregivers for the family, influence who will go to the doctor and when, and are also the main drivers of compliance to medication among family and friends.

But women also hear things differently to men; they relate to others and make decisions in an entirely different way and the only way to truly understand how marketing messages will be received by women is by having an in-depth knowledge of their values, instincts and roles, as well as the expectations that are placed upon them by society.

Driving awareness, action and behavioural change in healthcare is about ensuring you are considering the substantial body of research completed by psychologists, neurologists, sociologists and market researchers on gender. It is about avoiding stereotypes and dimensionalising target audiences, gaining an understanding at the point at which gender meets culture and the point at which it impacts decision making. Successful healthcare marketing is about engaging target audiences in a language that is appropriate and taking an approach that resonates with who they are; it's about being gender intelligent.

Kelly Teasdale
The Author

Kelly Teasdale is managing director of Ingenda Communications, a Chandler Chicco Company
Email her at

This article was first published in PME March/April as part of the Thought Leader series.

To comment on this article, email

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23rd April 2010


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