Getting more female directors and creatives to produce the advertisements we all watch will increase the accurate portrayal of women. Not only will this drive equality, it will drive business. Here is why.

A Surprising Reason For Gender Inequality In Ads—And How To Fix It


Think fast: When you watch commercials or read ads, do you think women in general are accurately portrayed? The research says no. That not only challenges equality, it is bad for business.

“Gender equality is a force for good, and also a force for growth,” said Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble, at the Girls’ Lounge at Cannes 2018.

Proof is in the numbers: Here is a roundup of statistics that show why equality in the creative business will boost the bottom line.

29: The percentage of women who are still inaccurately or negatively portrayed through some form of objectification, stereotyping or diminished character, according to a study of more than 40,000 ads and media by the ANA #SeeHer movement.

85: The percentage of product purchase decisions made by women. As advertisers, if you’re not speaking to females, you’re missing out.

26: The percentage increase in sales growth performance seen with gender-equal ads, according to the ANA #SeeHer study.

$28 trillion: The amount of money that could be added to the world economy by 2025 if we close the gender gap.

10: The percentage of commercial directors who are women. Only 32% of Chief Marketing Officers and 33% of Chief Creative Officers are women.

What’s the root cause behind the inaccurate representation of women in ads? Pritchard suggests a big part may come down to the uneven gender ratio among the teams who create those ads. “It’s pretty clear that we don’t have equality in the creative pipeline, which might be a clue as to why we don’t have equality in advertising,” said Pritchard.

This lack of representation has motivated leaders and brands to create change through collaboration and action.

Marc Pritchard, CBO, P&G with singer/songwriter Milck in the Girls’ Lounge at Cannes.

P&G, along with a growing list of brands, agencies and editorial platforms, has joined the Free the Bid pledge, which aims to solve the pipeline problem in the creative industry by calling for more bids for female directors.

Emma Reeves, Executive Director, Free the Bid, has challenged the industry to hire female directors.  “We have thousands of women directors ready and willing to work,” said Reeves. “There is really no excuse for not hiring or considering a woman director.”

Reeves said Free the Bid is not asking for women to be handed opportunities. “Women don’t want to be hired because they are women, they want to be given a chance to compete and they have been kept out of that systematically for decades.”

HP was the first company to commit to signing the Free the Bid pledge — and the results its seen in the 18 months since doing so are testament to the program’s success: Before, the company had zero projects produced by women directors; today, women are directing 59% of their projects.

“This is not doing good for the sake of doing good or because I’m the father of five daughters, this is about business results,” said Antonio Lucio, Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, HP. “We’ve increased emotional connection to our brand by 33% and brand preference by 26%.”

The power of giving female creatives a voice shines through with the work of artists such as Milck, the singer behind the Women’s March anthem “Quiet” as well as P&G’s “Love Over Bias” campaign. She is driven by her experience as an Asian American immigrant woman to change the status quo.

“As an immigrant child, I wanted to see myself in this world that I grew up in, that I call home, America, and I couldn’t find representation of myself growing up,” says Milck.

This lack of representation is what inspired Milck as a young girl to work towards increasing storytelling and representations of all people. “The more that there are women behind the mixing board, the more empowering and interesting music can become,” says Milck. “With the P&G commercial, I championed myself and my female collaborator to become the producers of the track. Just choosing each other helped make a first leap of difference.”

Read more about women behind the camera who are championing the accurate portrayal of women:

Actress/Director Aisha Tyler on Diversity in Media & Gender Equality in Hollywood

Mother-Daughter Directors Pamela & Elizabeth Guest on Storytelling & Change Making

Aissa Maiga On Her Book-Turned Documentary “My Profession Is Not Black”