People Complain of Gender Stereotyping and Lack of Diversity on TV

October 4, 2017

Despite some progress, TV isn’t doing a good enough job of promoting inclusiveness and gender equality, according new studies from Havas Group and Univision. Almost half of women from various countries around the world agree that TV ads show too many outdated gender stereotypes, per Havas’ report [download page].

A similar proportion (49%) likewise resent the way women are depicted in a lot of advertising.

Men hold similar attitudes, though not quite as strongly, according to the survey of 12,168 adults across 32 markets. Some 44% feel that TV ads are outdated in their use of gender stereotypes, and close to 4 in 10 resent the way that women are depicted in a lot of advertising.

This is not strictly a female issue, as almost one-third (31%) of both men and women surveyed also resent the way men are depicted in a lot of advertising.

Still, attitudes seem to affect women more when it comes to “voyeuristic” advertising: 38% of men agreed that they enjoy watching advertising that shows semi-naked women, compared to just 17% of women who enjoy watching ads with scantily-clad men.

Around 1 in 10 respondents enjoy seeing ads that show scantily-ad people of their own gender.

Outdated Gender Stereotypes?

With almost half of adults around the world agreeing that TV ads show outdated gender stereotypes, it’s important to look at some of the attitudes people hold towards gender.

The following are some highlights concerning gender roles from Havas’ “The Future is FeMale” survey:

  • Some 52% of women and 44% of men do not believe in set genders, feeling instead that gender is fluid and everyone can be what they feel like;
  • A majority (61%) of women feel that parents should raise their children in a gender-neutral way rather than raising them with traditionally gendered activities and clothing, though only a minority (46%) of men agree;
  • Some 41% of respondents overall worry that boys are becoming less masculine, while 34% worry that girls are becoming less feminine;
  • Almost half believe that a man who wears makeup is not masculine enough, though fewer (31%) feel that a man who devotes a lot of care to personal grooming is not masculine enough (see men’s growing influence in the beauty market);
  • A majority of respondents feel that there are not enough women in executive positions today;
  • Two-thirds wouldn’t have a preference for either a male or female boss, although twice as many would prefer a male (21%) to a female (11%) boss; and
  • Almost three-quarters of both men (73%) and women (72%) agree that being a successful parent is more important than having a successful career.

For all the talk of gender fluidity, though, men and women tend to ascribe some fairly stereotypical characteristics to each other: most men think women are more nurturing and sensitive, while most women think men are more mechanical.

Still, a majority feel that men and women are equally likely to be smart, hard-working, responsible, creative/innovative, intellectual, trustworthy and confident, among other characteristics.

Those are encouraging signs, yet there seems to be a greater reluctance among men than women to acknowledge power imbalances. For example, while 56% of women feel that today women have rights but no real power, only 41% of men agree. And more than one-third of men (35%) believe that gender inequality no longer exists, compared to roughly one-quarter of women (26%).

Many more attitudes towards gender are explored in the report, which is available for download here.

Stereotypes in Ads

Separately, research from J. Walter Thompson New York and The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (reported here by AdWeek) indicate that men are 4 times as likely than women to have a presence in ads and have 7 times the speaking time.

Stereotypes in ads? Try these figures:

  • In an analysis of ads released this year, men portrayed in commercials are twice as likely as women to have a job, widening a gap seen in ads from 2006-2016;
  • Men are almost twice as likely as women to be shown as smart, up from a 62% greater likelihood during the 2006-2016 period; and
  • In an analysis of ads released from 2006-2016, women were almost 50% more likely than men to be shown in the kitchen.

TV Needs to be More Racially Inclusive

TV isn’t only failing when it comes to gender equality.

Research from Nielsen indicates that broadcast TV ad spending focused on Black audiences has been surging of late, with the primary attributable reason being an increased diversity of programming on broadcast networks featuring mostly Black casts and/or leading actors. But while there may be more shows featuring Black casts, that doesn’t necessarily mean progress has been made across the board.

In a new survey, Univision asked more than 2,000 US film and TV consumers ages 18-49 (including oversamples for Hispanics, Blacks and Asians) about the “one thing” they would change about movies and TV today. The unaided responses showed that for 18-34-year-olds, “inclusive storytelling” was a top-5 concern.

In fact, fewer than 4 in 10 respondents overall reported feeling good about how representative TV shows are today with both plot and casting, though about half are positive about the progress programming has made.

The biggest issue that needs to be addressed? Racial stereotypes / tropes / typecasting, according to 40% of the survey’s respondents.

Considering that almost 40% of the US population belongs to a racial or ethnic group other than non-Hispanic white – including almost half of all Americans under age 18 – TV content creators and advertisers will need to improve in order to appeal to diverse groups moving forward.

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