Gender equality in advertising: how to break free from stereotypes

Many ads portray strong, resilient, and wicked women who excel in sports, run businesses, make discoveries as scientists, or create wonders as engineers. Do these ads represent reality, or do they jump across the femininity spectrum, as if trying to make up for years of misrepresentation? How authentic and current are these new portraits? Where are our mothers, sisters and neighbors – caring, gentle and sensitive but not wavering and weak?

Another thing to consider is that the traditional binary view of gender is increasingly being challenged. Today, nearly 4 in 10 Americans think there are more than two genders, according to PewSearch. With this, the traditional/outdated portrayal of gender in media and advertisements is even more detrimental.

It has been well documented that when ads authentically portray women, there is an increased likelihood of having a positive impact on long-term brand relationships as well as short-term behavior. SeeHer’s study found that advertisements and programs that realistically portray women and girls have, on average, a 30% higher return on investment. A 2021 Ipsos study, “women in advertisingconcluded that “brands have the power to drive change in our society, and we see from the data that doing good for society is also tied to doing good for brand growth.”

How to break free from stereotypes and think in new and original ways? How do we authentically portray women, men, and everyone else on the gender spectrum?

The good news is that unconscious biases can be overcome – by acknowledging them, being mindful to avoid them, and challenging how we think about gender. Here are some steps we can take to decrease stereotypical thinking:

Marilyn J. Hernandez