With Gender Issues, Details Matter

Marc Iskowitz is editor in chief of MM&M.
Marc Iskowitz is editor in chief of MM&M.

This magazine usually doesn't devote space to chronicling our subjects' outward appearance so much as their opinions and accomplishments. Yet I'm going to break with tradition to do exactly that in this column.

August's cover showcases 12 of our 16 Hall of Femme inductees — a group of the seniormost women in healthcare marketing — seated in dignified fashion beneath our old standby MM&M logo, which is draped in pink.

When this combination made the rounds in galley form among our editors, it raised questions (and even some eyebrows). Were we trying to celebrate these women for having made hard-won progress in gender parity while also perpetuating a stereotype about them?

Pink, after all, is associated with sweet, nice, and playful, or bubblegum, flowers, and babies, according to one blog that details the meanings of colors. We certainly didn't want to diminish inductees' work by using the wrong color.

So we debated it in a staff meeting. Before I explain why we did what we did, let me recap the genesis of the MM&M Hall of Femme awards program and event. We launched it earlier this year to help women healthcare marketers close the gender gap around salary and provide a forum to help others climb the career ladder.

The keynote at the June 9 event, Hall of Femmer and 26-year pharma vet Christine Coyne, shared with the crowd “all [she] had experienced and sometimes endured” during her years in the business, including a boss who refused to advance her because she wasn't the family breadwinner.

See also: Christine Coyne on the "Raphael" moments that influenced her career

Coyne engaged in a kind of retrospective conversation with her younger self, the 22-year-old who started in marketing at Wyeth in the early '90s. She talked about how she watched — and emulated — the male executives, tall and sophisticated in their suits.

Two decades later, as she began to work with, and for, more women in lead­ership roles, Coyne found herself confused. “All my years of making sure to blend in caused me to stick out [among them],” she recalled. So she traded her “uniform” of gray pantsuits and pearls for less staid outfits, like the orange dress she wore to the HoF event.

In fact, almost all the inductees showed up dressed stylishly in an array of colors. Thus we sought to follow their lead, but seeing our logotype bedecked in a jaunty shade of pink next to these esteemed women caused one senior editor no small amount of discomfort, leading to our internal debate.

See also: Saatchi's Roberts placed on leave for comments on gender diversity

It turns out that Andrew Lathrop, our art director, who conceived the cover, agreed with Coyne, even before he heard her speak. His prevailing thought, as Coyne eloquently expressed it, had been that, for women to be successful in business, they had to emulate men.

Now there is more acceptance and a willingness among women to show their personalities in how they dress. Thus, after briefly switching to green, we decided to go with pink, and in so doing feel we're making a statement about the type of woman who succeeds in healthcare marketing today: someone who feels free to look the way she wants.

You've seen the results. Do you object to the pink, or did we make the right call?

Marc Iskowitz is editor in chief of MM&M. 

OPINION

Email Newsletters