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Increasing number of women in advertising

Women in advertising have increased over the past 18 years and the representation of people of colour has more than doubled but queer characters remain underrepresented in advertising. Disabled representation has remained steady and low, Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media says in a report that comprises marketing films 2006-2023.

Since 2019, the representation of older adults is increasing. Representation of people with large body types has significantly decreased over the past five years.

Women’s representation has seen a significant increase from 33.9% of prominent characters on screen in 2006, to 43.8% and 43.7% in 2022 and 2023, respectively, the study shows.

“Statistical analysis indicates a significant increase of characters of colour over time from 25.9.9% of prominent characters on screen in 2006, to 46.3% and 53.0% in 2022 and 2023, respectively.”

Characters age sixty and older have increased over time, from 7.0% of prominent characters on screen in 2019, to 12.8% and 12.3% in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

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Among the report’s recommendations for improving diverse representation in advertising for ad creators and marketers: 

  • Show more female characters working and in the office, to improve the quality of female representation. Having more male characters than female characters shown in these roles may reinforce the “male breadwinner” model.
  • Show more female characters with positive traits, such as being funny, to add greater depth and personality to female characters across ads.
  • Rethink the settings that segregate men and women. Include more female characters in exciting and physically active settings, like the great outdoors, and men in more calming settings, like the home.
  • Reduce sexualised depictions of female characters, particularly with the clothing they wear, to subvert visual objectification and dehumanising characterisations of women.
  • Increase on-screen speaking time for female characters.
  • Continue to increase the overall share of characters of colour in creative work.
  • Increase the share of characters of colour in an office setting, to offer more positive depictions of people of colour in the workplace.
  • Significantly increase overall representations of prominent LGBTQIA+ characters.  
  • Increase the number of visibly prominent characters with disabilities.
  • Show more characters sixty and older in more active settings and behaviours, such as exercising and outdoors, to counter stereotypes surrounding a decline in physical activity.
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