Marketers all over have heard lots of noise about changing household roles – men doing laundry and women “bringing home the bacon.”  But you might be surprised to learn that perceptions of gender roles might not have shifted as much as you might think. While women are more present in the workplace and more men are choosing to stay home with the family, many men are facing the same stigmas and struggles that women have faced for years.

We asked 1,700 women and 1,750 men their perceptions of gender roles and family dynamics. The research revealed:

  • 53% of people in the U.S. believe that traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity no longer apply in today’s society, and that belief is shared equally by men and women;
  • Only 25% of people still believe that a woman’s primary duty revolves around taking care of her home and family; but,
  • When it comes to the roles of men, twice as many people (49%) say they believe that a man’s primary duty is to financially provide for the family. Oddly enough, men were more likely to agree to this than women: 57% of men, compared to 41% of women.

What is shaping these perceptions?

Naturally, we were curious why men are reporting that adhering to traditional roles is so important.  Some of the pressure comes from peer pressure; younger men (18-35 year olds) are more than two times more likely to feel peer pressure to conform.  It is this same age group that is more likely to assert that a man’s primary responsibility is to financially provide for his family.

Additionally, men are feeling torn between their family and career:

  • 75% of men stated that their first obligation is to their home and family,
  • 48% feel that their career gives their life purpose, and
  • 38% of men believe being wealthy is important.

We see this as evidence that men, especially younger men, are struggling as they try to find their balance between work and life.  Most interestingly, it seems men are facing some of the same agonizing decisions and tensions that women have been dealing with for decades and the impacts of this shift are going to be felt for many years to come.

How can companies be sensitive to these perceptions?

  • Be careful not to advertise to stereotypes of your oblivious male consumer.  Men are extremely sensitive to the delicate balance taking care of their family and career responsibilities.
  • Recognize the emotional pressure your male consumers (especially younger males) might be feeling and identify ways to position your brand as a pressure release.
  • Be less linear in your depiction of gender roles in your advertising.  For example, showing a man enjoying the time he has with his family can be even more compelling to him than showing the powerful business man.

Companies that can understand and embrace this gender role shift are likely to find a receptive and appreciative audience from both sides of the gender divide.