Brands & business benefit from advertising equality

Gender equality is good for business

Advertising that promotes gender equality is positively received, particularly by women.

And when you consider that women make the majority of household purchasing decisions, it’s easy to see that gender equality makes good business sense.

Women are the world’s most powerful consumers.

While women are half the population, they make 70-80% of all purchasing decisions.

Because women often buy for their children, partner, parents, friends and businesses, their purchases have a knock-on effect.


Special K had long been associated with women wanting to lose weight. But as the idea of dieting fell from grace, so too did the brand – facing ten quarters of losses.

So Special K Canada took a new approach, embracing accurate and diverse portrayals of women to invoke body positivity.

Not only did the brand return to growth, sales increased by over 200%.

Special K advertisement poster of a young plus-size woman with the words 'I am proud of the story my body tells'

Special K advertisement poster showing a woman in casual clothes with the words 'As a new mum I embrace everything it brings'um in t-shirt and leggings

When consumers spend more with you, they expect more from you

More than 83% of consumers want brands they engage with to take a stand on social issues.

37% of Millennials, who are the largest spending generational group, say they have stopped or reduced a business relationship because of the company’s ethical behaviour.

So brands that promote gender equality – in the way they advertise and operate – not only keep their current customers happy, but are more likely to engage the next generation of consumers.

Consumers are a step ahead

A study exploring community responses to gender portrayals in advertising found that consumers perceive stereotypes and sexualised images of women to be common in advertising, but also believe they are out of step with contemporary society.

The study showed that the community is aware of the way these portrayals pressure women and men to conform to limiting stereotypes, have negative impacts on health and wellbeing, and may support attitudes that cause violence against women.

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“If we start looking at diversity and inclusion as a driver to profit, and a driver to original thinking and innovation – which research shows it is – we could... start to see some genuine change in businesses.”

Stefanie Digianvincenzo, Creative Strategist @ Facebook

Equality can be good for the trophy cabinet, too

Advertising is heavily validated through industry awards. While award juries have typically been male dominated and rewarded work that is made by and for men, there have been notable efforts in the past few years to promote gender equality within the international awards circuit.

Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions, the industry’s pre-eminent award show, has launched several initiatives to address gender inequality, including:

  • Launching See It Be It in 2014, a leadership accelerator program for high-potential female creatives
  • Introducing the Glass Lion award in 2015, recognising work that ‘challenges gender bias and shatters stereotypical images’
  • Introducing new guidance on gender bias for jurors in 2017

Naked woman holding a large shell to represent her vulva, shown at the start of the Libresse Viva La Vulva video

Fearless Girl statue facing a statue of a charging bull in Wall Street, New York

Cannes Lions Like A Girl

Equality is everyone’s business

No matter your brand, no matter your business, the case for gender equality is clear.

Find out what you can do to help drive change.

Get involved