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From Bathrooms to Brand Impact – Why gender matters to Organizations

Ujwal Arkalgud, EVP & Group Director at Lux Research

Ujwal Arkalgud

EVP & Group Director, Anthropology

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Jason Partridge

VP, Client Success

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Welcome to “Why Meaning Matters”—a Story Studio Network podcast hosted by Erin Trafford with MotivBase cultural anthropologist, Ujwal Arkalgud and MotivBase president, Jason Partridge.

In episode four, Erin begins by reminding listeners of episode three’s conversation around the changing meanings of gender. Tying that into today’s topic she asks why organizations need to care about the meaning of gender, femininity, and masculinity.

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Welcome to Why Meaning Matters. A Story Studio Network podcast hosted by Erin Trafford with MotivBase cultural anthropologist, Ujwal Arkalgud and MotivBase president, Jason Partridge.

In episode four, Erin begins by reminding listeners of episode three’s conversation around the changing meanings of gender. Tying that into today’s topic she asks why organizations need to care about the meaning of gender, feminity, and masculinity.

Ujwal says organizations need to care about meaning because of the influence it has on the products a company produces and how it empowers organizations to market those offerings.

UJWAL [00:03:17] “We’ve come to a point where I think especially a lot of our marketing colleagues, talk to us about how they operate from a position of fear, right? It’s more about not saying the wrong thing rather than learning to say the right thing again. And that’s because we’re not asking about meaning.”

Take comedians and their product- comedy, for instance. Some say comedy is dying. Ujwal and Jason believe it’s not dying rather a re-learning of the meaning and the why behind what we say.

JASON [00:05:21] “And I thought it was such a really, really important kind of thing that was, you know, it hit really close to home because a lot of what we’re doing is we get so focused on the ‘what’ that we don’t take the time to take a step back and start to question the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. And this is a perfect example of a topic that requires that.“

Erin steers the conversation back to corporate organizations, the impact of examining the why behind what they say and the trickle-down effect it has on leadership, running an organization and building a team. The Fortune 1000 companies that MotivBase works with aren’t just paying attention to what gender means to the consumer. They’re really trying to understand the role of gender in their own organizations.

JASON [00:07:56] “They’re starting to think about what’s happening at a senior leadership level. Are there preconceived notions that have led to a structure and are they considering kind of how that may be a disadvantage? Have they prevented a different type of thinking, a different type of approach to evolve within an organization that could have given it a competitive advantage? You know, these are the types of things that get very much tied to understanding the role that gender can play, not just in how you’re communicating with your consumer, but how it’s really kind of shaping how you operate as a structure.“

For large American companies, there are more CEOs with the name John than there are female CEOs entirely. Erin asks, “What is it that needs to be said internally to at least show awareness of the changing meaning?” Ujwal says it’s complicated and acknowledges the challenges that these large organizations face when it ultimately, and realistically, all comes down to money. It’s in seeking the opportunities.

UJWAL [00:09:51] “So a great example of this is, you know if, let’s say, and this is true, we’re seeing how the meanings around gender are evolving, it’s becoming, there’s greater acknowledgement of the fact that gender isn’t a binary thing. It’s not a one and a zero that we could lie on a spectrum of gender. We need to create openness and how we in how we are able to express who we are as people. So all of that is great, but of course, from an organization’s perspective, that’s a very complex topic to make money off of, right. But then, you can distill it down to say, okay, so what is the area where there’s an opportunity? Turns out there is an opportunity because there is now a whole generation of parents with young children that are going, how do I not make the mistakes my parents made?”

It’s safe to say that organizations that see the meaning of gender matters at the family unit level and at the cultural leadership level are owning the narrative, so to speak. And often it’s the little changes that begin to build bigger changes. Like incorporating gender-neutral bathrooms.

UJWAL [00:12:07] “This is not just about marketing by the way, going back to your earlier point, Erin, this also helps their own employees. It makes somebody who’s applying for a job go, You know what? The fact that I have a gender-neutral bathroom in my office is something that’s going to help me in, you know, feeling comfortable, feeling accepted. Feeling like I can be myself. Think about how significant of an impact that is on your brand. It will trickle down eventually to impacting how people think about you.”

Jason agrees, saying it’s indicative of companies trying to future-proof their business.

JASON [00:13:04] “I think that that is the big thing that is taking place with gender right now is that the companies that are trying to understand the shift, that are deconstructing what is happening, are going to be the ones that are going to better serve their consumers in the future because they’re asking the question, ‘Why?’ at the right time.”

Timing is everything and as people, particularly women, begin to return to the workforce post-pandemic Erin sets up the next episode where she and hosts Jason and Ujwal will discuss the meaning of feminity and masculinity and why it matters.

Stay tuned for episode five of Why Meaning Matters. A podcast produced by Story Studio Network and iContact Productions for MotivBase- Decoding implicit meaning behind what people talk about.

If you want to contribute to the conversation, make sure you drop us an email at hello [at] storystudionetwork [dot] com. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to SHARE it, RATE it, and SUBSCRIBE to the show!

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