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Behind the ads: advertising professionals' perspectives on gender equality in the workplace

Women and employment Advertising Platform worker rights Gender equality Gender stereotypes Workplace bullying Australia

Advertisements have a powerful ability to shape our beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours. They can prime and reinforce narrow ideas about what it means to be a woman or man, and how women and men are valued in society. 

This research, informed by the The shEqual Survey, an in-depth analysis of advertising professionals’ perspectives on gender equality in the workplace, shows that advertising has historically under-represented girls and women, as well as sexualised and objectified them and depicted them in stereotyped ways. These representations help perpetuate inequalities based on gender, including significant differences between men and women in everyday life (e.g., level of education, income, employment).

Although there have been some positive developments, persisting gender inequality and (mis)portrayals in advertising are one of the underlying influences on discrimination and violence against women.

It is crucial for those involved in the creation of advertisements to be aware of and to take action to prevent the negative outcomes that arise from these portrayals.

The five key issues identified in the Behind the Ads report are:

1. the need for a shared understanding of gender equality
2. sexist workplace cultures
3. unequal employment conditions and support
4. sexist advertising content is still being produced
5. the unclear role for men in driving change.

The report identifies a range of actions to improve industry-wide engagement with gender equality. These include:

  • Implement practical policies that address discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Create a transparent procedure for reporting discriminatory or sexist behaviour in the workplace
  • Managers, C-suite executives and creative directors make a public commitment to equality
  • Provide gender equality training for all employees so everyone can make a commitment to safer workplaces and gender equal ads
  • Provide training and resources that gives men confidence to be allies – actively supporting gender equity at work and in life.
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