December 21, 2021
It’s been a story as old as time; men run the advertising world. Though in the past few decades it has become more ‘socially acceptable’ for women to choose to be in Advertising, most women in this industry have faced stereotypes when it comes down to actually working on a day-to-day basis.
Though unfortunately, most wouldn’t be surprised by that statement, it still resonates with how much more work needs to be done in order for women to not only be comfortable, but thrive in the growing industry of advertising and marketing. In our opinion, it’s pretty obvious that women are the true masterminds behind the world, but it’s about time that they are at least recognized as big sharks like men in this industry are.
We hear about the importance of diversity in advertising all of the time, but at what point will that include equal pay, the lack of ‘pink’ tax, and leave women in a place where they are seen across the same line as men? A subject that most aren’t willing to discuss, but in reality there are still a multitude of women being underpaid in this industry for doing the exact same thing as men are.
With a profession that is so dominated by masculinity, many women face pay gaps, sexism, and a culture of silence or fear. At what point will it become acceptable for women to be viewed under the same pretences as the male community? With causes like the #Metoo movement popularized in culture, it has become easier for women to find their voices, however, this is only the very beginning of the argument against sexism in advertising.
Sexism in advertising goes beyond just the women who are employed in this industry. It also can be depicted by the way women are showcased in advertisements. The most popular are women either being sexualized, shown as ‘housewives’ or mothers, and are more often than not, shown as being at lower value than men. Women drive 80% of consumer spending worldwide, yet advertisements still capitalize on the portrayal of women the same way as they have since the beginning of time. The math doesn’t quite work. Why are women the most likely to purchase consumer goods, but only represent a sliver of actual leadership in the advertising universe?
Of course there are women who have beat these odds. Whitney Wolfe, the owner of popular dating application ‘Bumble’ has done wonders for women in marketing by vocalizing her story in a way that demanded to be heard. Originally an early executive with Tinder, Wolfe left that job behind while shedding some #metoo light on her fellow executives with a sexual harassment and discrimination suit against the company. Not only did Wolfe then become the CEO of Tinder’s biggest competitor in the dating world, but she also paved the way for so many other women in this industry to find their voice and not be ashamed when facing these disgusting realities that so many women in this industry unfortunately still face. “The fact that society has begun to normalize the importance of equality and female empowerment, is something the company was ‘so excited about,” Wolfe said in an interview with TechCrunch Disrupt in 2018.
Despite the constant discrimination, sexism, and inequality that women face, there are still a number of women who are fighting back in this industry and towards being successful leaders in the advertising world. Many women in recent years have stepped into executive positions, yet there is still a significant lack of women CEOs in this continuously-growing industry. This is where the critical importance of creative agencies and advertisers taking equality and sexism seriously comes in.
There is a women-led Canadian creative agency who has fought against these gender stereotypes and has created a web design and digital advertising agency led by women. Fluency Digital Agency is a Toronto based agency run by Creative Director, Lysanne Louter and Digital Strategist Dayna Boyer. This duo has been responsible for designing beautiful websites across both Canada and the United States, and are taking the world by storm! Only 1% of creative agencies worldwide are owned solely by women, and major kudos to this agency for being in that percentile. There is nothing we love more than watching a powerful agency be run by powerful women. We predict that Fluency Digital will only grow to turn more heads as they grow across Canada.
With women being the most likely to purchase consumer goods, it’s no wonder why campaigns that have significant women involvement are seen to be more authentic, real, and relatable. A man’s opinion can only go so far, but with a woman’s input can be worth its weight in gold when it comes down to a solid campaign. Typically in advertising, men operate on a process of elimination. This means that men decide on the most important aspects of a product, and then eliminate the products lacking those specific attributes. When a woman is involved they often approach the same product a bit more strategically. This entails using more comprehensive methods in order to reach final marketing decisions instead of operating based on opinion and appearance.
I’m sure the argument can be unfolded in either direction, however, the reality is we are in 2021 and we still are finding gender stereotypical campaigns against women. In most of these instances, women have had zero involvement in the campaign as a whole. As an example, Burger King UK, in an attempt to turn around a sexist trope on International Women’s Day 2021, tried to turn around with a Tweet titled “Women belong in the kitchen.”, which backfired exponentially due to zero female involvement in the campaign. Though there were apparent good intentions, the strategic approach behind releasing such slurs on social media on a day to support women, led to the backlash of an entire world of upset women, as well as an influx in retweets from other men agreeing to the statement. Where this was intended as a campaign to encourage women to pursue careers in the culinary arts and to take a stand for the sheer 20% of chefs in the world being women, it was taken completely out of context and Burger King as a result was dragged through the mud. Another stand to attest to the point of the incredible lack of female representation in these industries; a statistic that needs to change.
Where of course, one opinion shouldn’t matter more than the other, it’s important to look at each situation from both perspectives. It’s unrealistic to approach a female driven consumer market without a feminine point of view. This is how advertising over the centuries has appeared to be sexist and misleading towards typical gender norms. There will never not be uncharted territory, but when new situations unfold, it’s important to approach it from multiple angles and make a fully calculated decision for marketing. Both genders are just as important as the other. Each has varying needs, behaviours, and psychologies. In order to achieve true neutral advertising, marketers must be able to target both women and men simultaneously; in a man-led advertising world, that is simply impossible.
At the end of the day, gender is a complex area when it comes to business. Originally a man-led industry has now become a man-dominated industry, but in change there is also an allotment for growth. It is not too late to acknowledge the true power of a woman’s opinion and influence in every industry of the world. Women are not looking to take over the world, they are simply looking to be viewed as a worthy part of it. Equality and sexism should not be something that has to be fought for across any industry and the fact that it still is a fight is absolutely absurd. At Rebel Force Digital, we truly believe that women and men in any industry deserve equal rights, equal pay, and to be able to work freely and peacefully without fear due to sexism, discrimination, and bigotry. Women in advertising and marketing are only growing louder, prouder, and more determined; and this fight should not be fought alone. We are created BY women, and should be FOR women. If you are a woman in this industry, or you know someone who is, our hats are off to you. You shouldn’t have to fight this fight, but you are not alone. We will get to the point of having equality in all workplaces, we deserve it.