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The respectful portrayal of women in advertising has made major leaps forward according to a longitudinal survey by Advertising Benchmark Index. Other major associations that are promoting female gender equality also report the same terrific progress.  So, if you want to increase sales to women by 45%, read on!

Big Payoff: Five-year Survey Shows More Respect for Women in Ads — and Benefits to Companies

In 2016, ABX initiated a longitudinal consumer survey to gain early insights into unconscious gender bias in advertising.  Those insights helped ABX formulate a measurement system that has now been implemented on more than 150,000 ads, providing gender equality norms for every industry and media type, in 14 countries. This data is also the source for the(ANA) Gender Equality Measure (GEM®) and ABX’s Gender Equality Index (GEI™).

The original survey was repeated just last year and results now show tremendous gains in the portrayal of women in advertising.

  • There has been a 21% increase overall in female representation in advertising.
  • What is considered “appropriate” in female portrayals has shifted 15%, meaning respondents have become 15% more discerning on how women should be portrayed.
  • The most objectionable depictions of women in advertising have decreased 20%.

So clearly, the encouragement advertising associations have given to brands and agencies to improve their creative depictions of women has been taken to heart.  But, there is much work to do.

Want to Increase Sales to Women by 45%?

It isn’t just a “nice thing” to portray females respectfully in advertising. It is a critical business move. ABX research has shown that positive female Gender Equality Index scores can do a lot for your business such as:

  • Increase purchase intent by more than 45% among women.
  • Increase purchase intent by more than 26% for all consumers.
  • Increase brand reputation by 10%.


Shown above are individual ads (blue dots) correlated against the Gender Equality Index scores for each. As the positive Gender scores increase, so do Reputation and Calls-to-Action. Of note, ABX and the ANA SeeHer Movement were awarded the highly coveted ESOMAR Research Effectiveness Award in 2017 for this work.

Women Shown in Ads Make Career Strides

Other insights from the ABX survey:

  • In advertising, while men were initially viewed as “more successful professionals” than women, and were far more likely to be associated with STEM careers than women, these gaps have been reduced significantly.
  • In the last five years, more consumers are “aware” of Gender Bias and are “bothered by it.”
  • Younger women are most aware of this bias and are actually angered by it. They will switch brands and not do business with brands who fail to portray women appropriately.

Next Month: Digging into Top Ads in Four Countries

In light of the 2019 results, we were curious as to which ads with very high gender scores could be studied around the world.  In our next ABX Advisory, we’ll look at the top female Gender Equality Index ads for the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, for the last 12 months and discuss WHY they scored so well.  See the previews below!


If you have questions about this article or how ABX can help your brand, contact us HERE.