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shEqual survey paints a troubling picture of sexism in the ad industry

7 December 2021

The shEqual Survey Snapshots Results available now

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Read the Snapshot Report here

Gender inequality remains pervasive in the Australian advertising industry, according to the results of the shEqual survey.

Nearly 600 advertising professionals from around Australia responded to the survey, demonstrating a high level of interest in issues of gender equality, including among men, who made up 41% of respondents.

Disappointingly, the survey findings show that, while some progress has been made, sexism and gender discrimination continue to be everyday experiences for many women in the advertising industry. Survey respondents shared alarming stories of everything from sexist jokes to pregnancy discrimination to sexual assault. Two forms of gender discrimination within the industry that emerge most strongly from the survey results are pay inequality and discrimination against women when they have children.

Respondents of all genders believe that not enough action on gender equality is being taken by employers, industry bodies and governments. There is also a strong call for greater accountability for those who engage in – or protect those who engage in – sexist and discriminatory behaviours.

The shEqual survey findings are a call to action for the advertising industry to lead the way on gender equality. We are calling on the industry to get real… because it’s time to get equal.”

– Dianne Hill, CEO of Women’s Health Victoria


Clear gender differences emerge from the findings. Women are more likely than men to believe industry and workplace culture influence advertising content, less likely to believe gender equality is prioritised in Australian advertising, and more likely to support bold initiatives like gender pay transparency and quotas for women at senior levels.

Women are more likely to fear or experience negative consequences from speaking up, while some men don’t feel it’s their place to do so. Yet the findings clearly show that women in the industry want and expect men to be more active in their support for gender equality.

You can find the snapshot report here

Preliminary results of this landmark national survey were launched on the 7th of December at an online event, Bold & Strong: Presenting the shEqual Survey results. The event was opened by the Victorian Minister for Women, the Hon Gabrielle Williams MP, with an exciting funding announcement, and featured a panel of industry leaders.

“The shEqual survey findings show that the Australian advertising industry is critical in shaping gendered norms and attitudes. That’s why we’re providing a boost of $275,000 to support shEqual to continue its important work in driving these much-needed changes in the advertising industry.”

– The Hon Gabrielle Williams MP, Victorian Minister for Women

A full recording of the event can be found here.

shEqual is an initiative of Women’s Health Victoria and is supported by the Victorian Government and Respect Victoria.