Gender Bias in Advertising

The growth of the media industry has many plus sides: it broadens accessibility for consumers who have more options to choose from, and it provides more platforms for producers to create content. But with this increase in consumption and production comes an amplification of gender biases, a problem that has long afflicted the industry and that most companies argue can ultimately only be solved in time.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDI), however, proves that social change does not have to be restricted by time. Through their research-based technology, the GDI is rapidly changing attitudes towards women in media and entertainment. Companies can no longer use ‘great changes don’t happen overnight’ as an excuse to prolong their mis- and underrepresentation of women in media; if these companies want the change to happen, they can simply contact the GDI.

On Feb. 7, 2018, NYWICI hosted its monthly Member Salon, featuring Mary Ellen Holden, advisor and New York Council lead for the GDI, to discuss the current state of gender biases in media and how that can change. Here are the takeaways.

The Problem

  • Women make up about 51 percent of America’s population, but are only represented on screen about 25 percent of the time
  • Women on screen are not as valued and lack the same capabilities as men
  • When featured on screen, women have less screen and speaking time
  • 89 percent of males on screen are portrayed to be smart and are 2.6 times more likely to be shown as funny
  • 48 percent of women in commercials are shown in the kitchen
  • 8 percent of women have jobs on screen, even though 47 percent work in the office in real life

GDI’s Goals

  • Eliminate unconscious bias
  • Challenge gender stereotypes
  • Diversify representation in family media and advertising
  • Create awareness of the problem

GDI’s Solution

  • Collaborate with companies to create solutions
  • Review scripts and creative ad briefs
  • Create more female characters
  • Instruct ad writers to give female characters agency, jobs, humor and reduce their sexualization
  • Implement the GD-IQ tool to reveal unconscious bias in ads, film and TV shows
  • Hire more female crew members to create a more gender balanced team

Mary Ellen closed the discussion on a hopeful note, citing the increase in prosocial ads during the Superbowl as a sign that things are moving in the right direction. Ultimately, the GDI hopes for the day when their services will be replaced by common sense; in the meantime, Holden urges everyone to “[c]onsider this in what you do, apply a gender filter to everything you do in life, and we can make things better.”

— Janie Peacock


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