shEqual launches video series unpacking harmful gender stereotypes in advertising

Australian advertising equality movement, shEqual has launched a new series of videos as part of its ongoing efforts to end the use of sexist tropes in advertising.

The video series, created in partnership with Icon Agency at its digital production studio The Content Garden, is part of the group’s SH!FT campaign, which encourages industry-wide conversation by giving the industry the language to discuss and challenge the gendered stereotypes present in their work.

“We need to talk more about how the advertising industry represents women to the Australian public and the potentially damaging impact female stereotypes can have,” said Dianne Hill, CEO of Women’s Health Victoria, the organisation leading the shEqual movement.

Across seven panel discussion videos, industry panelists take a look at some of the common depictions of women that are highlighted in shEqual’s Female Stereotypes in Advertising guide, including: ‘The Model Mother’, ‘The Passive Little Girl’, ‘The Observed Woman’, ‘The Sexualised Woman’, ‘The Pretty Face’, ‘The Magical Grandmother’, ‘The Ticked Box’.

Members of the panel include senior strategist at TBWA, Dhivia Pilai; associate creative director at M&C Saatchi, Sarah Vincenzini; group account director at Icon Agency, Niall Hughes; CEO of UM Australia, Anathea Ruys; head of creative and insights at Kantar Asia and Australia, Irene Joshy; and senior executive of brand, marketing and CX at Medibank, Fiona Le Brocq.

Key insights from the panel include how changes to casting can create more authentic and diverse talent selection, the importance of raising concerns during the development of ads, and why advertising really needs to stop cutting off women’s heads.

The conversation also looked at the many other women that are absent from ads, including women living with disabilities, women with larger bodies, queer women, older women, and women of colour – especially First Nations women.

“Our data shows that respectful (93%*), realistic (88%*) and diverse (89%*) representations of women in advertising content are important to the industry. The will to change is there and we encourage advertisers to use these videos to start their own meaningful discussions with their peers,” said Hill.

The Model Mother and The Passive Little Girl are two of seven problematic gender stereotypes discussed by the panel.

“Australians see thousands of adverts each day, making it hard to underestimate the power our industry has to shape social opinions and expectations of women for the better. It’s therefore vital that we challenge inequality through our content and storytelling, which starts with the people making it,” said Icon co-founder and managing director, Joanne Painter.

“Gender and cultural diversity are deeply ingrained in Icon’s DNA and as a female-founded and led agency, we’re proud to support shEqual’s work. We hope that the content series furthers the much-needed conversation around the representation of women in the media,” Painter added.

* Source: 2021, The shEqual Survey, Women’s Health Victoria.


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