Joyce Lam
Joyce is a Senior Trends Analyst at Mintel, focusing on capturing consumer behaviour for the Asia Pacific market, as well as supporting the global Mintel Trends team to identify new consumer trends.

Mintel has been at the forefront of predicting the trends that matter most, calling them early and accurately, over the last 15 years. In our series You Heard It Here First we take a look at some of the predictions that we’ve made and where they are today.

Gender inequality still remains an issue despite major efforts and improvements. Even in China, where gender equality rights are enshrined in the constitution and women are supposed to ‘hold up half the sky’, the country’s gender gap score ranked 100th out of 144 countries in 2017, according to the Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum.

In Asia-Pacific, women still face gender stereotyping, discrimination, or even worse, harassment at home, the workplace and beyond. We announced the “Mintel Trend ‘The Unfairer Sex’” back in 2012, highlighting how brands and consumers are challenging existing gender gaps to strive for equal rights, treatment and opportunities between men and women. Today, this has become a hot topic that is being discussed more than ever before.

In these past couple of decades, a rising number of women in Asia-Pacific have been able to enjoy better education and achieve financial independence, giving them more freedom to make their own life choices. While these improvements may sound like a positive change, women feel more overstretched than ever before; they are in a continuous battle between pursuing career opportunities, while managing the traditional social pressure of getting married and starting a family.

When it comes to household chores, Mintel’s latest research on cleaning the house in China reveals as many as four in five women are still taking more responsibility than men (three in five) when it comes to cleaning duties, despite more men helping out compared to three years ago.

Brands stepping up to challenge the status quo

Brands and companies have been encouraging female consumers to do things that used to be labelled as ‘for men only’. Nike’s global ‘Dream Crazier’ campaign, which inspires women to challenge the status quo, has also been adapted locally in Asia. In Hong Kong, for example, the campaign featured five female athletes on building-tall billboards, calling on women to live their lives on their own terms.


An annual campaign since its launch in 2016 is cosmetics brand SK-II’s #ChangeDestiny initiative. It questions the traditional perceptions of marriage in modern day China, highlighting the struggle that Asian women have finding a balance between their own life choices and family expectations.

Over in South Korea, we see the rising popularity of the #escapethecorset movement where South Korean women are destroying makeup products in protest at the country’s unrealistic beauty standards.

The risk of stereotyping women (and men)

Brands that make the mistake of stereotyping gender roles may face a backlash. Giordano’s ad in Hong Kong, which featured a woman wearing a T-shirt saying ‘cook’, sparked outrage on social media. Other brands had similar accusations for being insensitive towards women in their marketing activities; IKEA’s ad showed a mother scolding her daughter for not bringing a boyfriend home, and Audi was comparing women to used cars in an attempt to promote its second-hand platform.

Brands should be prepared to adapt their products and services to the changing values and lifestyles of women, especially since their economic strength will prove too formidable to ignore. Mintel’s report on marketing to singles in China shows that over a third of single females think marriage isn’t necessary. This significant shift in values also indicates there is room for more diversity and inclusivity, in life and in the workplace.

Employing gender-positive internal company policies are a way to identify a brand’s genuine value. Creating female-friendly working environments, including equal pay across genders, flexible working hours for parents, and having a clear career trajectory for female workers—which is not impacted by maternity leave—are often the first things that brands can do to show their support for gender issues. For instance, brands can take inspiration from Adobe India, which closed the wage gap between its male and female employees.

Despite major efforts, social attitudes usually take a long time to change, and the gender gap is no exception. In Asia-Pacific, the discussion continues about creating a safer environment for women, both physically and mentally, to enable them to make their own life decisions, be it career, family, or hobbies and interests.