Gender Inequality Continues in YouTube Ads

December 10, 2019

In a recent study of nearly 3 million YouTube video ads, Google and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University found that while female characters were seen less often than males, ads that were either women-led or gender-balanced garnered more views than other videos. Here’s what else the study found.

Globally, viewers saw female characters 44% of the time compared to the 56% of the time that they saw male characters. Despite this imbalance, what that analysis showed was that video ads either led by women or gender-balanced had 30% more views. In fact, while 31% of videos created had mostly male characters, only 21% of the videos watched featured mostly male characters.

In the US, female characters accounted for 40% of screen time, compared to 60% of screen time featuring male characters. The study also found that in the past 10 years, females’ share of prominent roles only increased by 4%.

A study from last year found that a majority of US consumers no longer believe in gender stereotypes. Despite this, screen time featuring female characters vary by sector and reinforce those old stereotypes. On a global basis, females are given more screen time in ads for Retail (58% share) and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) (55%). They also are featured often in Health Care (52%), Travel (47%) and Classified and Local (43%) ads.

Meanwhile, sectors like Automotive (28% share), Business and Industrial (29%), Education and Government (33%), Finance (38%) and Media and Entertainment (38%) featured less female screen time in their ads.

The same gap can be found in sectors when analyzing speaking time. Female characters had somewhat equal share of speaking time with male characters in Retail ads (54%) and CPG ads (52%). By contrast, the Automotive sector featured less than half that speaking time for female characters, at just 24%, while Business and Industrial ads gave female characters the smallest share of speaking time (21%).

About the Data: The study analyzed more than 2.7 million YouTube videos uploaded by advertisers between January 1, 2015 and March 31, 2019 and accounts for more than 550 billion views through May 31, 2019 in 51 markets.

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