Women make 85 percent of purchasing decisions. This black-and-white fact is one that advertisers frequently overlook, steering their products towards men — often at the expense of women — and placing women in a simple box only to be accessed for their sex appeal or home-making prowess.
Thankfully, misogyny is becoming less and less commercial, and a new alliance demonstrates this cultural shift. U.N. Women is partnering with a number of companies and ad agencies to combat the sexism inherent in advertising by launching the Unstereotype Alliance at the Cannes Lion conference (June 22), the Huffington Post reports.
Companies like Johnson & Johnson, Facebook, Google, Twitter, WPP, and IG have all signed on to the Alliance.
“You’re seeing a change in society’s values,” Derek Rucker, marketing professor at Northwestern University, told the Huffington Post. “As society shifts, [sexist ads] become less tolerable.”
It’s a much-needed shift. Unilever (the company spearheading the Alliance) found in a 2015 study that only three percent of ads show women in leadership roles and half of women are sexualized in magazine advertising.
Positive advertising towards women is a new change even for Unilever, who recently decided to take their hyper-sexualized Axe ads in an entirely new, admittedly refreshing, direction free from antiquated gender norms.
Regardless of anti-discrimination laws, gender stereotypes persist, and stereotypes matter: why else is it nearly impossible for our society to believe a woman at face-value when she says she’s been sexually assaulted? How else could there never have been a female president, or even a female presidential party candidate, until 2016?
Regardless of what the news tells us, of what our president tells us, there are a staggering number of people in the U.S. who are fighting for gender equality and to diminish the sway of the patriarchy. Companies have a lot of power in formulating what people think just as consumers have a lot of power in shaping companies’ policies (see the #GrabYourWallet initiative.) While the Unstereotype Alliance may not change much, it could have the power to make it so little girls don’t see themselves as inferior to little boys by the age of six. It could lead to so much more.