Monday , May 17 2021
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What do women want?

Summary:
“Minister.  Can you spare a few minutes?” “Of course, Humphrey.  How can I help?” “We’ve drafted a new consultation paper.  May I take you through it?  We are asking women what they want.” “Good luck, Humphrey. That is not a question I have ever been able to answer.” “We are asking women, and of course men, what the government should do, or rather what women would like the government to do, to improve women’s health.” “You’re joking. You are asking men what women think the male Secretary of State should think about doing to make women think he is doing something they think they want to improve their health.” “Yes, that sums it up nicely, Minister.” “Maybe, but I cannot understand why men, and those who are neither men nor women, are being asked to fill in these forms at all.“It would be

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“Minister.  Can you spare a few minutes?” 

“Of course, Humphrey.  How can I help?” 

“We’ve drafted a new consultation paper.  May I take you through it?  We are asking women what they want.” 

“Good luck, Humphrey. That is not a question I have ever been able to answer.” 

“We are asking women, and of course men, what the government should do, or rather what women would like the government to do, to improve women’s health.” 

“You’re joking. You are asking men what women think the male Secretary of State should think about doing to make women think he is doing something they think they want to improve their health.” 

“Yes, that sums it up nicely, Minister.” 

“Maybe, but I cannot understand why men, and those who are neither men nor women, are being asked to fill in these forms at all.

“It would be discrimination if we didn’t, Minister.” 

“Come to that, why are we doing this at all?  Why are we concerned with women’s health rather than everyone’s?” 

“I believe it has something to do with votes.  Women have a propensity to believe that the health system discriminates against them, and they want to be heard.” 

“That’s nonsense Humphrey.  You know as well as I do that women’s life expectancy is, on average, five percent longer than men’s. If we are going to play silly games with gender studies, we should start with men, or maybe those others.  How many “others” are there?” 

“We are not dealing with reality, Minister, but with votes.  Votes are based on perceptions.” 

“Perception no doubt explains, Humphrey, why you gave me the “easy read” version of the questionnaire. And as East Anglia is not part of the Midlands nor the South of England (page 6), it is not perceived as being in England at all?” 

“Oh dear.  That could indeed be an oversight, Minister.” 

“You’re the logician around here, Humphrey, not me, but I have a problem with the subjects proposed for inclusion in the eventual strategy paper.  Tacking “against women and girls” onto almost any subject brings it into the frame.  For example, this draft has “Violence against women and girls” as one of the five possible topics.  Violence may obviously result in health problems but that has to be addressed by stopping the violence – a matter for the Home Office, Humphrey, not this department. You might as well include “Taxation of women and girls”.  The arrival of any HMRC envelope addressed to my wife sends her completely off her rocker but I don’t think that’s the business of this department.” 

“With the utmost respect, Minister, perhaps it should be. We are seeking to ascertain what women perceive to be damaging to their mental well-being and if the HMRC is the cause, you should take it up with the Chancellor.” 

“Oh great, Humphrey.  Thank you very much.  I can just hear him announce, in his next Budget, that all envelopes addressed to the fair sex will, in future, be coloured pink.” 

“Excellent idea, Minister, except I would not advise you to refer to women and girls as the “fair sex”. Pink envelopes might well benefit the health of the nation.” 

“On my same logical theme, I liked “Finding out more about health issues that only women have”.  Shouldn’t the whole consultation be limited to that? We might even ask the medical professional what those are?  We spend quite a bit of money training them to address that matter.” 

“Votes, Minister, votes.  It’s all about perceptions and votes.  Women want to be listened to or at least given the impression of being listened to. Please don’t imagine we are in the least interested in what the answers might be.” 

“Silly me.  You are quite right, Humphrey. Still, I did wonder about “Do you feel OK talking about health issues with doctors, nurses or other health and care staff?” and the need to define care staff as those who “support people to live at home or do everyday things”. (p.8)  It’s obvious you talk with some people about some things and other people about other things.  Women friends gossip about ailments and husbands, sorry partners, help women to live at home.  Perhaps the word “professional” should be inserted before care staff?” 

“I am beginning to think, Minister, that we should have given this consultation more thought before bringing it this far. I have to admit that some might consider that its whole tone is rather patronising.” 

“The questionnaire does mention, once in passing, the internet as a source of information. Is that really enough?  For many people, it is their primary source of information about their health. And it could be, but usually isn’t, the primary means of communicating with one’s GP.  Getting through by phone is next to impossible, appointments are all booked and they’ve never heard of email.” 

“Minister, you exaggerate.” 

“Yes, I do but not by a lot.  One good thing that has come out of the pandemic is consulting with the GP by phone.  My wife really likes that, and it works well. It could easily be on Zoom when the doctor needs to look at something.” 

“All good points, Minister. I have to agree that the consultation is weak on the digital front.” 

“Thank you.  The big question is what the outcome of all this consultation and report writing will be. On p.12 the consultation asks “Have you been given enough information about women’s health issues?” Obviously the expectation is that the answer will be “no”.  That will allow us to employ a lot more people to pump out pamphlets.  The clue lies in the illustration to the left of the question. I know the objective is just to give the appearance of listening, and I do the same thing over breakfast every morning, but isn’t that all a bit cynical even by our standards?” 

“Minister, as you know, that is a political matter on which I could not possibly comment.”

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Tim Ambler
Tim Ambler (born 1937) is a British organizational theorist, author and academic on the field of Marketing effectiveness. Ambler featured on Marketing's list of the 100 most powerful figures in the industry. He is cited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of the top 50 marketing experts in the world

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