How can brands be more gender inclusive?

We explore how brands can create more inclusive products and campaigns – and ask whether gendered branding and ads are still relevant in 2020

The past decade has seen a huge shift in attitudes towards gender. Consumers have become more resistant to gender clichés and stereotypes and younger generations are increasingly rejecting binary labels and definitions. As Mariel Brown, Director of Futures at Seymourpowell, points out, all this is set to have a massive impact on the way that brands behave – and the way that products and services are designed.

“We can’t ignore the social shift that’s taken place. It’s arguably one of the most profound forces we’re seeing in our time and I think its impact will be felt for generations,” explains Brown.

In the past few years, we’ve seen the launch of gender-neutral fashion and beauty brands as well as children’s toys, from Mattel’s Creatable World products to John Lewis’s Boys & Girls range – but many companies are still struggling to tackle gender bias and shake off the stereotypes that have influenced ads and product design for generations. Here, we explore how companies can adopt a more inclusive approach to design and communications – and ask whether we still need gendered products at all.

Mattel recently launched its first range of gender-neutral dolls, which are free of discernibly male or female features and can be dressed in a range of different outfits


It’s fairly obvious that the more diverse a team is, the more diverse its output will be. And whatever the product or project, there’s a clear need for companies to invest in recruiting diverse design and leadership teams to ensure that consumers aren’t excluded or put at risk as a result of gender bias. 

“It all comes down to the shape of the teams you’re building internally,” explains Brown. “A lot of it is about building a culture of inclusivity within your company – so looking at hiring and HR policies, making sure you’re encouraging gender inclusivity in terms of how you’re bringing new talent into the business, and making sure that the teams you’re putting on projects reflect that inclusivity. All of these things work together to create the right conditions for really good, gender-inclusive design to take place.”


Milton Keynes