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Here’s what global marketers are doing to tackle sexism in advertising


AT&T's chief brand officer Fiona Carter, at an event in New York City on April 18, 2017

Ilya S. Savenok | Getty Images

AT&T’s chief brand officer Fiona Carter, at an event in New York City on April 18, 2017

Unilever undertook research in 2016 that looked at ads from a variety of businesses. It found that only 3 percent of advertising showed women in leadership roles, 2 percent were shown as intelligent and 1 percent had a sense of humor. It is now leading the Unstereotype Alliance with UN Women.

AT&T now uses the ANA’s Gender Equality Measure (or GEM score) to test adverts before they air, and has found that advertising that scores higher has a better “brand consideration” and is felt to be more reputable among consumers, Carter said.

The Unstereotype Alliance aims “to tackle the widespread prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising,” according to a statement on Unilever’s website. This Thursday will see the alliance’s first meeting, at Cannes Lions.

Speaking at The Female Quotient event, Keith Weed, the chief marketing officer at Unilever, said: “Why would you only use half the talent in the world if you can use the whole talent in the world? You could get a lot of middle aged men and teach them to try and think differently or take a diverse group of people and leverage the diversity among them.”

Companies including Unilever, P&G and Johnson & Johnson will also run research every other year for the next 10 years on gender equality, in 40 countries, Pritchard said. “What we need is action that is going to change attitudes…Our advertising and our media that we are on, to hold the industry accountable, so equal representation and equality is the norm.”

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s event, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women’s executive director, said in an online statement: “Negative, diminished conceptions of women and girls are one of the greatest barriers for gender equality and we need to tackle and change those images wherever they appear.

“Advertising is a particularly powerful driver to change perceptions and impact social norms. UN Women is excited to partner with the foremost industry shapers in this Alliance to challenge and advance the ways women are represented in this field.”

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