How Covid Exposed Gender Inequality in Advertising

Trends / Realness
Mayur Kakade
1215953122
Jacqueline Bourke
May 24, 2021
The impact of the lockdowns on gender inequality has certainly been an alarming topic of anxiety and discussion during the pandemic. In recent years, we have seen moves in the right direction towards better gender representation in advertising, but, despite brands' best efforts, there is still an over‑reliance on old gender stereotypes when depicting the impact of Covid‑19 on our everyday lives.

Our data shows that in the last year, customers downloaded nearly four times more visuals of mothers home‑schooling their children than fathers. The top‑selling home‑schooling visual in 2020 is an image of a father working on a laptop, while a mother sits on the same kitchen table helping their son with homework—an image which further reinforces outdated and harmful gender stereotypes. Our most downloaded visual stories disproportionately show women as primary caregivers, which tells us that brands and businesses still have a long way to go towards supporting gender equality in the workplace and at home.
Our most downloaded visual stories disproportionately show women as primary caregivers, which tells us that brands and businesses still have a long way to go towards supporting gender equality in the workplace and at home.
Most women are invisible
Our data reveals that of all the images customers chose to show women working from home, there is a very narrow representation of intersectional experiences. Images selected lack ethnic diversity, different body shapes, women over 50, women with disabilities, different socio‑economic backgrounds, religions and cultures, meaning most women are still invisible. Furthermore, only 0.6% of top downloads show women with a disability, 2% show women with larger bodies and 5% show women over 50. With decentralised and flexible working becoming the norm, the data shows there is still much work to be done to achieve full inclusivity.

Data gathered for Visual GPS, Getty Images' insights platform, confirms the impact of misrepresentation in visual communications, with 44% of women surveyed saying they have been affected by gender bias. Additionally, the data shows that misrepresentation affects both men and women, with only 17% of men and 12% of women reporting that they feel well‑represented in advertising and communications from companies they do business with. Clearly, brands are falling short.
Moving Forward

Counteract gender stereotypes
Take proactive steps to debunk gender stereotypes and choose visuals that represent the varied realities of people everywhere. You should consider whether the roles depicted in the visuals you choose are equally attributable to women and men.

Ask yourself:
  • Are you authentically representing the many different people that take on role of caregiver?
  • Is there an equal division of perceived “power” in the workplace or at home?

Draw inspiration from real life 
Showing real people living full lives will forge greater connections with your audience.

Actively ask yourself:
  • Are you using stereotypes to represent women of various ethnicities?
  • Are you showing women over 50 (and up to 100!) as content, active and fulfilled?
  • Are you representing women with larger bodies? Shorter bodies? Women with physical disabilities?

Authentically represent all families
When visualizing families, make sure that you are inclusive of the full spectrum of the population. Represent all ethnicities, ages, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people.

To more actively address this, ask yourself:
  • Are you representing all types of families, including LGBTQ families?
  • Are you representing families with parents of a variety of ages?
  • Have you considered including family members with disabilities?
  • Are you selecting imagery that represents a range of cultures and settings?
Inclusion in the Evolving Workplace