The Editors' Post: The commercial disadvantage of ‘shrink it and pink it’

We delve into purpose, profit and profitability with Demos – and a pair of your correspondent's climbing shoes. Plus, don't miss our interviews with Jeroo Billimoria and Kush Kanodia. This week's view from the Pioneers Post newsroom.

“Shrink it and pink it” is a marketing mantra describing an extremely reductive way in which companies adapt their products for women – because, obviously, all women want is the same things as men, just slightly smaller and in a nice blush shade. 

Clearly this practice should have been thrown in the corporate litter bin years ago, but I came face-to-face with it recently, with the end result that I’m now the proud owner of a brand-new pair of women’s climbing shoes. 

The shop didn’t have the pair I wanted in my size. But, the shop assistant informed me, that was fine because they did have the women’s version of the shoe in my size, and the women’s version is exactly the same as the men’s, just a different colour. 

On hearing this information, two things sprang to mind. The first was that a light blue shoe would go well with my climbing helmet. The second was Ida Sports

“Bigger brands often ‘shrink it and pink it’ for women, as it’s cheaper than building additional tooling but that often isn’t the best for the female consumer.”

Ida Sports was co-founded by Laura Youngson to make football boots for women, addressing the industry practice of “shrink it and pink it” and the serious health implications this can have for female athletes. 

Ida Sports’ website details the key differences between men’s and women’s foot shape: women’s feet are generally more triangular, have higher arches and women’s body weight is aligned differently to men’s. Improper footwear (ie, footwear designed for men) can cause pain in women’s ankles, knees and hips.

When I told Laura about my new shoes she wasn’t at all surprised. She said: “Bigger brands often ‘shrink it and pink it’ for women, as it’s cheaper than building additional tooling but that often isn’t the best for the female consumer.”

This difference in priorities and practice between Ida Sports and footwear firms maximising profits at the expense of female customers’ health illustrates the findings of a report published this week by UK think tank Demos. The Purpose Dividend said purpose-led firms invest more in their businesses than their peers, raising the quality of their products and services and increasing their productivity. What’s more, Demos argues, if all UK businesses had purpose at the heart, it would boost the country’s economy by billions of pounds.



Impact stories

While Laura’s motivation comes from “designing for consumer groups that have been traditionally overlooked”, Jeroo Billimoria, co-founder of Catalyst 2030, says more representation of Global South changemakers – and fighting the “colonial mindset” – still gets her fired up. Read my colleague Laura Joffre’s fascinating interview with Jeroo here

Further exploring social entrepreneurs’ motivations, my colleague Estelle Uba interviewed Dr Kush Kanodia, the award-winning disability rights campaigner (and speaker at next week’s SE100 Social Business Coffee Break webinar), about his impact story.


Estelle Uba - Write to End Violence Against Women awards winner

Finally, massive congratulations to Estelle for winning the Best Blog and Self-Published award at the Write to End Violence Against Women awards for her article ‘Missing White Woman’ syndrome: Is the media to blame for racial bias in police searches? 

This week's top stories

Legislating for all businesses to be purpose-led will boost UK economy, argues think tank

Jeroo Billimoria: 'You have to be bold enough to shut something down'

‘No person can transform a system by themselves, it has to be from a me to a we’ – Dr Kush Kanodia


Top photo: Players wearing Ida Sports football boots (credit: Ida Sports).