Advertising and Hollywood Have the Power to Change How People See Women

Erasing gender stereotypes 'overnight'

How women are portrayed in advertising and in Hollywood has a major impact on how people see and think about women, and whether they belong in positions of power, panelists discussed today during Advertising Week. 

"Overnight every brand, every Hollywood movie, can show female CEOs," said Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, during the "Our Challenge to Erase Gender Stereotypes in Ads" panel. "We're the only sector that can fix that gender disparity overnight."

Marketers posited that showing women and girls in positions of power, or in fields that are dominated by men, can in turn impact the future of those fields. 

For instance, Reshma Saujani, CEO and founder of Girls Who Code, noted that 30 years ago the original ads for the Mac presented the product as a toy for boys, which had a direct and detrimental impact on the number of women studying computer science. 

"You would think there would be more women in computer science today than there were 30 years ago," said Saujani. "A lot of that has to do with the advertising of computers … girls were absent from that picture and not much has changed when you look at Revenge of the Nerds, Silicon Valley."

Saujani added: "We have to really think creatively about what we're doing about these images, how are we replacing them, how are we as consumers calling out to brands. It is playing a huge role in how women aren't doing it." 

Jessica Jensen, head of brand strategy and product marketing communications for Facebook, said that creating work without gender stereotypes isn't hard. In fact, that's exactly what Facebook has been trying to do with its business-to-business campaign, She Means Business, which has drawn views from 44 million people. 

"At Facebook we think we have a responsibility to put out great, empowering advertising to lead the way," said Jensen. "We wanted to use our own platform to put force behind this tsunami of positive content showing that women can run businesses … All of us can produce work with gender-positive imagery; it is cheaper than ever to produce that work." 

Jensen added: "Getty Images partnered with Lean In for the Lean In collection; those are all positive images. No one should have an excuse for using crappy stock photos of women scrubbing floors."