Advertising returns to depicting women more frequently in domestic roles, study finds

    • Fifty-seven percent of characters in advertisements across 2021 and 2022 were women, while 43% were men, according to the “Gender in Advertising 2023 Report” from CreativeX.
    • In 2022, men were cast in professional roles 73% more often than women compared to the previous year and 30% more often in leadership roles. Women were cast 46% more often in domestic roles and 3.6% more often in family settings. These trends were compounded when age and race were taken into consideration.
    • The representation of women in professional settings declined 21% in 2022, while spending on such ads fell 35%. The results suggests gender representation in advertising shifted last year, with women more likely to be cast in domestic or family roles than in the previous year. 

    Despite the higher percentage of female representation in the advertising space, the marketing industry is still a long way from true equity. Beyond a shift towards portraying women more frequently in domestic and family roles, the number of women working in the industry fell 24% between 2021 and 2022, according to She Runs It. The loss of women workers in the space may be partly responsible for the decreased representation of women in the professional setting across advertising categories.

    While professional settings overall were used less frequently last year — possibly because of the growth of work-from-home and hybrid working — there was still a clear shift in gender representation, per the findings. Of the characters in ads shown in professional settings, 61% were women in 2021. By 2022, that number dropped to 48%. While women characters in leadership roles grew, it is a small percentage overall. There was also a drop in women characters in physical settings.

    CreativeX used AI technology to analyze 10,885 ads featuring over 20,000 people from categories including CPG, food and beverage, alcohol and healthcare. The collection of ads amounted to more than $110 million in advertising spend from 2021 to 2022. Additionally, the firm used AI and machine learning technologies to extract creative data, including gender, age, skin tone and situation.

    When looking at skin tone, 23.6% of all tracked spend went to advertisements featuring women with lighter skin tones, while only 6.8% went to ads featuring women with darker skin tones. The overall percentage of ad spend featuring women with darker skin tones fell between 2021 to 2022, from 7.9% to 6.2%. Advertisements starring lighter skinned men in professional or leadership positions received 4x the amount of spending than those featuring darker skinned women.

    When looking at age, advertisements featuring women aged 60 and over increased 221% year-over-year. However, the increase was from 0.29% to 0.93%, amounting to less than 1% of total advertisements.

    The data is presented by CreativeX as helping marketers understand current representation trends with an eye towards spotlighting industry biases in effort to drive change. 


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