Earlier this year I attended the Women in Tech ‘Advocating Inclusivity’ event. As an icebreaker we were asked to solve a riddle, you may have heard it before:

A father and son are in a car accident. The father dies instantly, but the son is taken to a hospital.  The surgeon comes in and says, “I can’t operate on this boy.”

“Why?” asks the nurse

“Because he’s my son.”

How is this possible?

Got it?

The surgeon is a woman.

Did I get it? Nope! The room was filled with members of a group which has the sole purpose of improving gender equality and no one could correctly answer the riddle!

Gender stereotyping

No matter how much pro-equality media we consume and no matter how many conversations we have about the importance of equality, we still have these bizarre stereotypes ingrained in our brains. 

Where do they come from? At what point did we develop these views?

Earlier this year, Inspiring the Future released an ad depicting just how early onset gender bias can be. Children between the ages of five and seven were asked to draw a surgeon, a firefighter and a pilot. 66 pictures were drawn, 61 of which were men.

So who is responsible? 

Parents? Teachers? Advertisers? The media?

In most cases it’s all of the above. Even if we don’t think we’re doing it, we are. Perhaps part of the problem is we all think we’re above stereotyping. I certainly thought I was. Do we all need to be more honest about it?

One brand which is accepting some responsibility is Unilever, having issued a “rallying cry for the marketing industry to ‘unstereotype’ gender portrayals” earlier this year.

Unilever admitted they’d been as guilty of using outdated stereotypes as any brand and are now taking steps to ensure all of their brands are treating everyone equally.

So who will join Unilever in tackling these stereotypes?

Enter the debate on gender stereotyping at The Festival of Marketing:

Panel: Gender stereotyping – what is and isn’t ok?

  • Is male or female stereotyping ever ok?
  • What is our responsibility as marketers to dispel certain gender stereotypes?
  • What is our responsibility to the next generation to dispel certain gender stereotypes?
  • Will we ever live in a world without gender stereotypes?

You’ll be able to pose your questions to our esteemed panel:

Kate Ward, Head of International, Refinery29
Stephen Bayley, Author, Critic, Columnist, Consultant, Broadcaster, Debater and Ex-curator
Karen Fraser, Director, Credos and Strategy Director, Advertising Association
Aline Santos, SVP Global Marketing, Unilever

So, check out the Festival of Marketing agenda and book your tickets today.

This article was originally published on the Festival of Marketing website.