Non-binary thinking: when the tools don’t represent us, we can’t do our best work

Alice Raitt, media strategist – Carat Melbourne

Currently, in the tools that underpin audience analysis in our industry, there are fewer ways to cut an audience’s gender and sexuality than there are letters in LGBTQI.

For the first time this year the Australian Census will include non-binary as an option. Yet Asteroid, GWI and Emma continue to centre on just two genders. This poses significant problems for an industry that seeks to understand, analyse and target all Australians.

It’s a media agency’s job to be the catalyst for having deep conversations around audiences – understanding them in all their richness and diversity. However, we’re only as good as our tools let us be and when it comes to gender and sexuality the tools fall flat. It’s difficult to include questions around gender diversity in the strategic process if there isn’t readily available data to back it up.

We’re lucky that in this market we’ve got fantastic youth publishers doing much of the hard work for us. With every survey and report from the likes of Pedestrian TV, Junkee and Urban List we get a little bit closer to understanding how many people aren’t fitting the binary.

I love being able to include these insights in a strategic response, but it shouldn’t have to be a side discussion. Gender should be completely integrated with the other data points we’re using and easily accessible so that anyone can bring it into their own work.

We know Gen Z are the most diverse generation in history, as their spending power grows and more advertising dollars are allocated to targeting them. With this missing data we’re setting ourselves up for failure later down the track.

If we’re not having the conversations around a defining piece of their identity now, we’ll be making up for lost time later. It also goes without saying that we’re missing the opportunity to gain rich insights by tracking the change in gender identity over time not only for Gen Z but for all generations as they move through different life stages.

In my first weeks at Carat a mere two months ago, we were given the go ahead to put our pronouns in our signature if we so wished. It came at a time when I had been thinking a lot about my own gender identity, after a long pandemic spent mostly working from home, where patriarchal beauty standards had almost been eradicated from my day-to-day.

Without these societal pressures I was asking myself what womanhood is and if I felt like I belonged in that category every day. While I still haven’t quite landed on where my gender sits on the spectrum, I wondered what would the act of putting a little word like ‘they’ in my signature mean from a professional standpoint?

It can be small acts that shift the dial, like having your pronouns in your email signature, starting a meeting by introducing yourself with the pronouns you use, or when presenting a deep dive about your target audience, acknowledging that the data doesn’t account for non-binary. These are simple and quite casual ways to bring the conversation around gender diversity into the spotlight.

As we wait for the owners of research tools to catch up so we can smoothly make gender a part of our work, we can in the meantime make sure that the people sitting at the table in our industry feel like they can be their truest selves. So that when they’re exploring who that self might be, they won’t have to experience a moment of hesitation.

We’re demanding more from our research partners until a better reflection of the society around us is illustrated in the data we use.

Originally published on AdNews here

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