From the way we express our emotions to the language we use in confrontations, men and women have vastly different ways of communicating. The different communication styles are deeply rooted in perceptions shaped by gender, the various ways men and women view the world around them. For those of us in communications, this presents challenges that go far beyond those typically associated with audience and buyer personas.


Pinterest, the visual sharing social network that has exploded into the must-use site of marketers and advertisers, is having its own issues with breaking through gender perceptions. According to a Pew Research Report, only 13 percent of male Internet users are on Pinterest, compared to 42 percent of women. Pinterest is working hard to change the perception that Pinterest is a platform for females, but because the site gained its popularity because of female users, the company is having a hard time convincing men that Pinterest isn’t “for girls.”


Picture of woman smiling and holding pushpins

90 percent of all pins are created/shared by women – RJ Metrics

Although Pinterest has categories associated with males (sports, technology, cars, and motorcycles), the site mostly comprises categories associated with women: DIY and crafts, hair and beauty, gardening, celebrities, and home décor. The cars and motorcycles, sports, and technology categories are gaining traction with men, but Pinterest is still a long way off from being able to claim they have a male demographic.


Pinterest rose to the top of the social network scene with a singular push from millions of women, solidifying in the mind’s of men the site’s perceived femininity. A 2013 study by researchers at USC Marshall demonstrates how audiences respond to works created by women. In the study, participants were asked to listen to separate pieces of classical music, one composed by a man and one by a woman. Told beforehand that the piece was written by a woman, participants found the female composer’s music to be of “worse quality” than the male composer’s music. In another experiment, the participants were informed beforehand of the female composer’s impressive professional credentials, and the results were resoundingly positive. The second study shows that for a female creation to be taken seriously, the public needs proof. Pinterest has the credentials, to the tune of 70 million users. Unfortunately, they’re all women.


Picture of gender hot keys

Gender marketing is widely used to manipulate purchasing behavior among male and female consumers

Marketers have a history of marketing with gender bias. You don’t need to look far to see the different ways marketers manipulate women to purchase products. Marketers that have gone against the status quo haven’t fared well. Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton, who worked to diversify the long-standing image of white, stick-skinny Barbie, recently resigned because of poor sales. The public didn’t buy it, figuratively or literally — our biases run too deep. Barbie is a model; Santa is white; men like cars and motorcycles; and women like crafts, weddings, and shoes.


Pinterest is a woman’s creation. In the minds of men, it’s all about crafting, fashion, and party planning — all things that “girls are into.” How does Pinterest, or any other company for that matter, change a perception so deeply rooted in gender bias? In Pinterest’s case, it’s not the marketer that stereotyped the public, but the public that stereotyped the marketer. Pinterest can’t hope to change the way men feel about crafting, beauty products, and celebrities, so it’s targeting men in the only way it knows how: with cars and motorcycles. The strategy is working. Male users are signing up — just don’t ask them to admit it.


Are you on Pinterest? Do you view Pinterest as a uniquely “female” social network, or is this perception based on the site’s large number of female users? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, or tweet me @nataliepetitto.