Stereotype Busters Take a Stand Against Being Diverse-ish
Diversity is just a buzzword until we take tangible action to create the change we want to see in the world. We hosted top leaders from the advertising industry in The FQ Lounge @ Cannes Lions to discuss the audiences and cultural groups that are often rendered invisible in media.
The consensus? Being truly diverse and inclusive means tackling outdated stereotypes about all people that perpetuate inequality, discrimination, and exclusion. Scroll down for tips on how to become aware of invisible stereotypes and action steps for change.
Recognize the Problem: Not Seeing the Problem
Recognizing the problem of stereotypes is the first step to tackling them wherever they appear. With the billions of dollars that advertisers spend to connect with consumers, the advertising and media industry has the potential to shape deeply-rooted attitudes on femininity and masculinity and challenge the status quo.
“85% of women in Brazil and 80% of women in South Africa don’t feel represented because they are single. If you look around the world, you’ll see the same problem everywhere,” says Aline Santos, Global EVP of Marketing and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Unilever. “The way single women are represented is completely wrong. The pressure society is putting on women is unbearable.” If advertisers take responsibility for supporting messages and images that are positive and inclusive, they will remove the greatest barriers for equality.
Talk about More than Just Gender
The way in which different dimensions of identity (race, gender, age, class, sexuality, religion, education, language, disability) interact determines how each person experiences the world. Yet, 72% of people around the world feel that most advertising does not reflect the world around them. If advertisers want to accurately portray the diversity of people, it’s not enough to focus on gender in isolation or to simply eliminate stereotypes that objectify people. It’s time to produce progressive advertising that reflects the complexity and intersectionality of real life. Advertisers can truly free us from stereotypes by depicting actors as empowered, multi-dimensional people. As Aline says, “I want people to be as big as they want to be. It is our responsibility to create advertising that will make people proud and inspire them to reach their highest potential.”
Aim to Foster an #Unstereotyped Culture
Despite the progress that has been made, women creators are still lagging behind in parity with men. According to The Celluloid Ceiling, of 2018’s top 100 highest-grossing films, only 4% of the directors were women—down from 8% in 2017. In order to reinvent advertising so that everyone has a voice, the industry itself has to be representative.
Alana Calderone Polcsa, SVP of Branded Content and Partnerships at ELLEN, says, “As we create new series and hire new talent, we want to make sure those voices are represented. And, as we partner with brands, we also want to make sure we fight to tell the most inclusive stories.” Once a company has created a balanced workforce internally, the next step is driving gender balance in senior leadership and creative roles, implementing diversity and inclusion training as a standard across the industry and challenging other agencies and partners to be representative.
Treasure What You Can Measure
Data-driven methodologies that identify unconscious bias in advertising and programming, like the Gender Equality Measure (GEM), can be effective tools for breaking down stereotypes and accelerating change. In an effort to reduce unconscious bias, Unilever and UCL co-created a study where they invited their marketing professionals and agency partners to take voluntary DNA tests. The logic was that receiving DNA information would help the participants learn something new about themselves and feel more connected to humanity in general (e.g., if you learn that you have Asian ancestry, then you’re more willing to reconsider the ideas that you have about Asian people because you’re partially Asian). This human approach led to a 34% reduction in unconscious stereotyping amongst the group after just one day. Once they were able to think more broadly about their own identities, it was much easier for them to think more broadly about other people.
Remember that Everyone Can be a Leader
While partnerships and large-scale diversity initiatives are crucial steps for driving change, it’s important to remember that change also happens at an individual level in daily human interactions. “We can’t forget that fighting bias is hand-to-hand combat,” says Tara Walpert Levy, VP, Agency and Brand Solutions at Google. “We need everyone and their pack to be an evangelist for having conversations about how to create an inclusive environment, making sure voices are heard, and calling out stereotypes when they hear them. Inclusivity cascades, particularly when leaders do it.”
Don’t wait. Join leaders across business, technology, and creative industries so we can channel our collective power and advance diversity beyond gender.