Gender stereotypes in advertising

Gender stereotypes

Gender stereotypes are widely held, over-simplified ideas about a group or individual based on gender.

Ads that rely on gender stereotypes are common, and they’re dangerous

The advertising industry relies on stereotypes to get ideas across quickly and clearly – but what many people don’t realise is that stereotypical ads actually send a dangerous message.

The representations we see in advertising influence our beliefs, aspirations and behaviour. The more children and adults are exposed to gender stereotypes in mass media, the more likely they are to believe in narrow ideas about what it means to be a man or woman.

Rigid gender roles and stereotyped ideas of masculinity and femininity are linked to higher rates of violence against women.

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Stereotypes are out of step

Times have changed since the 1950s, but the gender stereotypes shown in advertising have not.

Adult women are overwhelmingly portrayed as housewives, mothers and girlfriends, associated with appliances, furniture and products related to health, cleaning, beauty and fashion.

Men are typically depicted as powerful and independent, frequently shown in work settings and are used to advertise electronic, automotive, finance and insurance products, food and beverages.


Stereotypical associations with products and roles are reinforced by other more subtle gender differences in advertising portrayals.

Certain groups of women are all subject to their own stereotypes too – be it because of ethnicity, sexuality, age or body size.


In 2018, a group of advertising creatives banded together to create a short film titled ‘Adpology’ for International Women’s Day. Speaking on behalf of the ad industry, the film apologises for sexist advertising tropes, painful cliches and promoting negative self-image in women.

The effects of advertising on children

From a very early age, children are influenced by what they see in ads. And what they’re seeing is more and more gender stereotypes.

Colour is used as a marker to indicate whether a product is considered appropriate for boys or girls to use. Toys and games marketed to girls focus on appearance, nurturing and cooperative play, while those for boys focus on competition, dominance, independence, and physical activity.

When it comes to the effects of advertising on children, these representations influence our children’s interests, behaviours and aspirations from a very early age. Girls start to learn that they are expected to be attractive, cooperative and caring, while boys learn that they are expected to be strong, active and independent.

Stereotypes don’t sell

Stereotyped ads are out of step with public opinion, and they certainly miss the mark for the most powerful consumer group – women.

On the other hand, ads that show women in non-stereotypical ways drive purchase intent and increase brand reputation.

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Times have changed and advertising needs to catch up

Advertising has the power to transform stereotypes and promote gender equality

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