This article was authored by Carrie Lightfoot (The Well Armed Woman) and is reprinted courtesy of Concealed Carry Magazine with permission of the United States Concealed Carry Association. All other rights reserved. For more information contact www.uscca.com.
IT’S COMPLICATED. It’s complex. It’s convoluted. Perhaps it’s even potentially treacherous territory. Throughout history, men have risked everything to try to unravel its mysteries. Yet, we are going to try to unravel the beautiful and intricate tapestry that is woman.
We all know that women are different. Yes, there are the obvious physical differences such as the lumps and bumps not found on the male body, weaker upper body strength and wider hips, but there are additional and profound differences that make the task of meeting the needs of women shooters a challenge for the firearms industry. To make it even more complicated, there are many sub-groups of women — each, of course, very different from the others.
It’s complex, I know. But that’s part of the glorious mystery, right? Men have been trying to figure out the female gender since the dawn of time and likely will continue to do so until the end of it. So, how does this apply to guns, gear and firearms training? And what can the industry do to meet the needs of this complex group of gun owners?
To fully address the needs of this multifaceted market group, it will be helpful to look at it like an onion, a piece of cake or maybe even a parfait. Women have layers! (And, yes, Shrek is my favorite movie.)
Women depend on discussion and conversation with others to process new information and to work through learning and decision-making processes. It’s important that we connect new information to a personal — and perhaps even emotional — need. This assists us in fully understanding why something is important and allows us to effectively apply what is learned.
“JUST AS NO TWO WOMEN ARE ALIKE, NEITHER ARE THEIR PREFERENCES. ”
We see this lived out at The Well Armed Woman (TWAW) Shooting Chapter meetings across the country. As women come together to learn and grow as their own self-protectors, they fellowship with one another as they process new self-defense techniques, try new firearms, explore concealed carry holsters and train in new shooting skills. They do so as a community: talking, asking questions and sharing the experience throughout the process. In this environment, this need is met, and I believe it is one of the reasons our TWAW program is so successful.
Women prefer to receive information in a linear, step-by-step format with the purpose clearly defined: a path, if you will, that they can confidently follow toward success. They enjoy “to-do” lists and like to see tasks laid out before them — visually and literally. This is important, as women are often perfectionists. Not only do they want to do things well, they want those things done in a particular way — the right way!
When it comes to training in the use and carrying of a firearm, this is a critical need to meet. Without it, the sense of being overwhelmed, confused and intimidated can hinder her success and even stop her as she crosses the threshold of the range.
For a large majority of women, the journey on the road to self-protection with a gun is one frought with a high level of caution and perhaps fear. It is truly foreign territory to them, so we must work to pave the road with clear and attainable skill steps that they can see, touch and demonstrate as they progress through the learning process. This is serious business to them, as they want to fully grasp and master the skills and equipment necessary for them to safely shoot and carry.
Being such highly intuitive and emotional beings, women can be highly sensitive to criticism and comparison. I believe that women are bombarded by society with messaging from multiple directions: advertising, the entertainment industry and, sadly, even people close to them who tell them what they are supposed to be, supposed to look like and supposed to act like. This constant barrage can inflict a lack of self-confidence.
I know this isn’t true for all women, but I think this assault on confidence is a scourge that binds some of us to an endless internal struggle for self-esteem. We can be tempted to compare ourselves to what and who we see and to be honest, we don’t need any additional critique or comparisons from instructors or marketing campaigns. Likely, we will be turned off and seek positive reinforcement elsewhere. Encouragement, not criticism, is the pathway to empowering women.
Do you see why it is so important for the firearms industry to understand women in order to effectively speak to them and successfully meet their needs? If we genuinely want to provide for and market to women, the industry and shooting community must acknowledge and understand these complexities and strive to meet the needs of this unique group by designing products for them, knowing how to market to them and training them effectively.
Now, I realize this is a tall order, especially for an industry that has primarily been meeting the needs of men since its inception. But it’s a different world now, and some of the traditional methods of reaching this demographic don’t speak effectively to women. Although men are still the larger “target demo” and the industry naturally centers much of its efforts and resources on that market, let’s look at how the industry can best work to reach the millions of “complicated” female gun owners.
WOMEN LIKE VARIETY
Just as no two women are alike, neither are their preferences. There is no “best gun” for a woman, nor is there one concealed carry option that works best for all women. So offer a variety of products, options and colors for women to choose from. Variety offers women the opportunity to evaluate a number of options to find the perfect fit.
WOMEN RELATE TO INFORMATION
Women don’t just read or watch information; they relate to it. So it is important to provide information in an assortment of platforms and approaches. These might include written articles, testimonies, stories, videos, podcasts and discussions. Provide them with information they can relate to that includes real people with real-life experiences and stories.
Women are storytellers. They relate to faces and stories to find ways to understand how something fits into their own individual lives. This kind of connection encourages women to tap into “why I need this” and “why it is important to me.”
»Did You Know?
Women are directly responsible or have significant influence in more than 50 percent of a household’s buying decisions.
I incorporate a variety of mediums on The Well Armed Woman website to be a useful and comprehensive resource for all women shooters exactly for this reason. You will find articles, videos, testimonies, survival stories, a weekly podcast, a women’s gun forum and even gun reviews written by regular, everyday women who share their likes, dislikes and personal experiences with guns. It’s all in the effort to satisfy the hunger for information and resources female shooters need and want.
WOMEN PREFER PRODUCTS THAT CAN BE ADJUSTED
The ability to adjust and custom-fit products to their unique shapes, lifestyles and needs is important to women. It is extremely important to be able to tweak, tighten, loosen or adjust for the perfect fit. Firearms with multiple backstraps and grip panels that can be interchanged to find the perfect fit are a great example of this. Holsters with ride height and cant adjustments help each woman find what works with her body to effectively carry concealed.
WOMEN LIKE TO PERSONALIZE
This preference to personalize gear is highly misunderstood in the firearms industry. It isn’t silly, nor does it reflect a casual attitude toward firearms or safety. Style is an important part of a woman’s world. Whether it is her home, her body, her clothing or her office, she wants to make everything around her appealing and uniquely hers.
Keep in mind that for many women, the owning and carrying of a firearm is a foreign experience, and it can be the act of personalization that helps them accept new pieces of equipment into their personal worlds. The use of colored firearms coatings, colored grips or even rhinestone-studded holsters are all examples of ways women personalize their concealed carry guns and gear.
WOMEN WANT RESPECT
Just the simple act of acknowledging a woman’s uniqueness communicates great respect. Understanding her need for information and her different style of communicating — and then providing the information she needs in a respectful manner — allows her to make her own best decisions.
Women don’t need to be told what to do; they just need to know what they need to know. Communicate respect by offering her the information she needs and then allowing her to make her own decisions.
WOMEN ARE CAPABLE PROTECTORS And lastly, for a woman, the carrying of a firearm to protect herself and her family isn’t about being sexy; it’s about being a capable self-protector. Women need information, training and gear that help them accomplish this, and it must be marketed and delivered as such.
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