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Dominic Valentine

Dominic Valentine

Training Manager

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Changing attitudes in training?


I am sure you must have similar or analogous experiences with other training topics to the one I describe below!

This is only a small case study with some background painted in. It reinforces the fact that we all have prejudices and try to manage them. It also reinforces the fact that you can have all the training courses in the world,every law on the statute book and take account of societal changes but changing "mind sets" is a tough one - in for the long road ahead.

Tom our placement student recently did a survey of  UK product adverts between 1930 to date. A combination of newspaper and television ads. His study spotlighted over 500 sexist ads depicting women. And  as the years have gone by they have (i) increased in aggressive tone/content/pictorals , (ii) fly counter to equality laws/environmental harassment  and make a nonsense of the hard headed economic arguments for equality/diversity awareness in terms of customer recruitment and retention? So in terms of UK leadership in manufacturing what does this tell us?

We have consistently displayed an exhibition of Tom's ads to male and female cohorts in our leadership/dignity at work training sessions. Invariably the approval rate of the men for the ads is far higher than the women. Does it matter? Don't we all have private prejudicial thoughts and is the art of leadership just managing your own and keeping them hidden from view in terms of those you lead?  As trainers we obviously spend lots of time in and outside the training courses with modules on managing your own prejudices etc coupled with techniques to challenge inappropriate behaviour. And perhaps the public procurement clauses in the Equality Act will help in a real challenge to these ADMan/Eve displays but it is ironic that as the hope and perhaps the prospect for change seems to get stronger, these ADS in the "real world" operate like a resistance movement -with new force and implied resentment about gender equality progress!

What do you think? I am sure you must have similar or analogous experiences with other training topics!

3 Responses

  1. insufficient data provided



    1. How are you defining the word "aggressive" as in, "they have (i) increased in aggressive tone/content/pictorals"

    2. How are you defining "approval" as in, "Invariably the approval rate of the men for the ads is far higher than the women"

    3. You state that the study runs from the 1930s to present; so firstly, are you judging 1930s adverts by 2012 standards? There are 500 examples spotlighted but you only talk about the ‘tone’ becoming increasingly aggressive, not the actual number.  Since the 1930s I suspect that there have been millions of adverts so what proportion is 500?

    4. You have not highlighted any distribution figures to suggest whether this is a widespread sexism or a niche within particular industries.  Of the more recent adverts how many of them represent leadership that is not based in the UK but at global HQs in other countries? 

    And finally

    Since it is reported, (Qualman, Socialnomics) that only 14% of people actually believe what they see in adverts, is it a trend (if indeed it is actually a trend) that is representative anything other than advertisers wasting their money?

    And really finally

    "So in terms of UK leadership in manufacturing what does this tell us?"

    Surely this study is about advertising and has nothing to do with manufacturing, see also the question at the end of 4. above

    Rus Slater


  2. The ads

    Yes you make some good points. Thank you. The term aggressive is found/defined not just within our mini study but wider research. The Glasgow Media Research group and others – countless others – have bigger samples. The aggressive tone can be seen in the depiction from the 30/40’s to a paternalistic and I suppose you could say " chivalrous" depictions which essentially portray women as dependent on men via the product. The tone from the 50/60’s is starting to slide into the bedroom/kitchen syndrome and those from that date to 2012 (Topshop and Ryan Air the latest examples) into hard,unsubtle and crude imagery. There is a sample of reverse sexism but it is not indicative of the aggressive portrayals. I submit that the decision to go ahead with these adverts by these bone headed male leaders is in ignorance of the economic benefits that can accrue to any organisation,not just manufacturing, when they don’t keep close to their markets and changing society. The Advertising Standards Authority have a growing post bag on the issues I have tried to describe  as well as other crude imagery around children which the Prime Minister has been addressing of late.

    In a wider context for our training,we often ask people to describe either openly or privately on a piece of paper their own prejudicial thoughts and attitudes.We all have them of course. And it is striking but not surprising that the % who respomd privately and with blistering forthrightness are in the majority. The exercise with the adverts and the male managers from across a wide range of sectors – not just manufacturing- was striking in its pack attitude and a worrying "common enemy unites" theme which was probably motivated by thoughts of political correctness,pink and fluffy here we go thought and other such cliches originating from the Daily Mail!

    Fascintating! But the purpose of my question putting aside my paralysis by analysis exercise was to find out from colleagues if they had similar or analogous experiences from their training specialisms. Have you?

    Again,thank you.



    QED Training

  3. short answer….long response!

    No, but then I don’t run any courses that seem to mirror the activity you use so it would be unlikely that I would find such opinions voiced

    Very interesting stuff and I have to say that a lot of advertising I do see is sexist. The reality is that sex sells and many people, male and female, are quite happy about that….when advertisers do cross the line they generally get censured.

    It has also to be said that we still live in an age where being "edgy" and "pushing the envelope" and "exploring the boundaries of taste" are proven ways to succeed financially, not just in advertising but in art, literature, humour and many other fields. 

    Sadly, perhaps…….but some would say that there is a very fine line between reasonable policing of free speech  and censorship.


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Dominic Valentine

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