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Navigators of Change: Bumble creates a buzz around romantic equality

Navigators of Change: Bumble creates a buzz around romantic equality
Katie Gabriel against a light green background

Our series on changemaking organisations continues with a piece from Katie Gabriel, Senior Account Manager. Katie shares her views on the dating app Bumble and its work to challenge traditional gender and relationship stereotypes, with its latest digital campaign called The Romance Gap.

  • Online dating has become commonplace in recent years, but often involves negative experiences for women
  • By tackling the “Romance Gap” with a “Women first” approach, Bumble breaks down stereotypes and disrupts the traditionally gendered approach to dating
  • Bumble’s billionaire CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, is leading change in an industry that she understands from a personal perspective, forging a path for other female entrepreneurs with big ideas

The dating app disrupting romance

The way Bumble is on a mission to change modern relationships fascinates me, as someone who met their long-term boyfriend through a dating app. Like many others in their mid-twenties, I have grown up through the evolution of online dating.

With the creation of different dating apps, I remember being mid-way through my undergraduate degree when they started to feel “mainstream”. Shortly after that it became the prevalent way of meeting people romantically. I am no longer embarrassed to say that I met my boyfriend this way but remember feeling acutely nervous about sharing that fact in the beginning.

The mathematical reality is that I doubt my partner and I would have crossed paths if it wasn’t for online dating. However, while I have experienced the positives, I can also attest to its darker side. Like many others, I have received unsolicited, graphic images and been objectified almost instantaneously because that was part and parcel of the online dating package. Many of my friends have since ditched apps all together for these very reasons. But does it need to be this way?

In Bumble’s opinion, no it does not.

Shaking up the dating world

When asked to think about changemaking organisations – those proactively trying to change the system – I immediately thought of Bumble.

Unlike other dating apps, Bumble is distinct for being “women first”, giving them the autonomy to make the first move and regulating its users to ensure trolls and abusers are blocked. The decision to give women the ability to make the first move was progressive at the time it launched in 2014 because it helped limit the volume of inappropriate or abusive opening messages received by women on a daily basis. But beyond that, it was progressive because men have traditionally made the first move in heterosexual relationships.

Bumble’s core values are to promote equal and healthy relationships, and actively challenge traditional stereotypes and behaviours. And although it started as an app that serves hetero-normative users, it is actively trying to become a safe and open platform for LGBTQ+ users, with the aim of empowering all relationships.

Tackling the “Romance Gap”

Its latest digital campaign perfectly articulates its pursuit of change. Named The Romance Gap, the campaign questions outdated gender dynamics in dating and relationships.

It is based on a YouGov survey Bumble commissioned in countries across Europe. One of the most staggering findings is that 76% of respondents think certain behaviours are expected in relationships based on your gender identity. Bumble argues it is this rigid thinking that has led to gender inequalities more broadly, including the Gender Pay Gap and parental leave. I struggle to disagree with that.

The centrepiece of the campaign is a 90-second video that features a room full of diverse women discussing their experiences of online dating and questioning certain behaviours. Sounds simple but it is profoundly impactful because it resonates with women like me. Questions include:

  • “How come he still has to ask me out, go in for the kiss and buy the ring?”
  • “If romance is equal, why do I feel feisty when I’m honest, intense when I want commitment and slutty if I don’t?”

The questions are followed by a series of motivational and empowering affirmations like “ask him out”, “ask her out”, and “ask them out”. The video then closes with the hashtag #MakeRomanceEqual. The UK version of the YouTube video has received 1.8m views.

Although we are advanced as a society in many ways, I would argue that in romance, progress has been slightly stagnant. Certain behaviours (like a woman proposing) are still profoundly rare and bold. Gender inequalities have been examined from the perspective of finances, childcare and careers, but not romance. This is why I think Bumble is a changemaking organisation, because it is actively encouraging those uncomfortable conversations and reflections on how we perceive romantic relationships.

Bumble’s queen bee leads change based on her own experiences

Aside from the campaign, Bumble’s progressive ethos cannot be separated from its Founder and CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, who was allegedly harassed by an executive and boyfriend at Tinder (which she co-founded). She later had to leave the company. It is her lived experience and attitude to business and relationships that led to the creation of Bumble.

And it is still an unfamiliar sight, seeing such a successful female entrepreneur and mother. In fact, Wolfe Herd is currently the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire after taking Bumble public last year.

I cannot help but wonder what level of change we would see across society if the world facilitated more female entrepreneurs like Wolfe Herd. Bumble’s work on gender and relationships is so important because it will help drive just this sort of change.

And on that note, here are some questions to leave you with:

  • How could Bumble’s work on gender be replicated by businesses in a different sector?
  • Do you think romance is a human issue that will become more widely talked about by brands?
  • What brand comes to mind when asked to consider organisations making positive change?

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