“Yes, sex sells. But sexism, increasingly seems less and less marketable,” states Emily Peck, senior reporter at Huffington Post.
Earlier this year, UN Women announced a new initiative—The Unsterotype Alliance. In partnership with the some of the world’s most influential brands and leaders in the advertising industry, UN Women has set out to eradicate gender stereotypes from advertising campaigns.
From grade school dress codes to the recent heated debate surrounding James Damore’s infamous memo, it’s impossible to deny that sexism still exists. And the gender stereotypes that surround us all on a daily basis continue to fuel the unconscious bias. Some may argue that advertisers have already begun making strides in eliminating stereotypes. While I agree, we certainly have a long road ahead of us.
In her article (Advertisers Are Actually Teaming Up To Fight Sexism. For Real.), Peck references a 2015 study conducted by Unilever which revealed “just 3 percent of ads feature women in leadership or managerial roles … And 1 in 2 women are shown as sexualized in magazine advertising.” She also recognizes that more often than not, it is women who are characterized as doing all household chores and taking responsibility for all parenting duties.”
With a significant increase in dual-income households, millennials choosing to marry later in life (or not at all) and more stay-at-home-dads and single mothers, we have more women entering the workforce. So why are we so focused on highlighting antiquated gender roles when they no longer accurately reflect the majority of our society? This shift in our culture is what’s calling for change, as acknowledged by Derek Rucker, marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. As our society evolves, he says, “[sexist ads] become less tolerable.”
As marketers, our reach is endless. Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, acknowledges our impact, stating, “Every day, hundreds of millions of people around the world are exposed to the communications our industry creates. That influence can either be used to reinforce negative stereotypes or to set new standards of empowerment and equality.” I challenge all of us to do what we do best—innovate, collaborate and continue to push boundaries. We have the capability to use our influence to breakthrough all types of bigotry and I can’t think of a better community than ours to meet this challenge head-on.