Are we there yet? The Female Quotient's Shelley Zalis on the portrayal of women in media

Every week, we ask industry insiders across all job levels and titles to share personal stories about equality, diversity and inclusion in adland. We know we're not there yet, but we want to document the highs and lows as the industry slowly transforms for the better.

Shelley Zalis
Founder of OTX
CEO of The Female Quotient
Creator of The Girls’ Lounge

Tell us about one thing that’s happened recently that leads you to believe there’s still a problem.

Even though women make or influence 85 percent of consumer purchases, 40 percent of women don’t identify at all with the women they see in advertising55 percent of adults think there is a real problem and that women are portrayed negatively in the media; and 90 percent of parents say their number-one concern is a lack of role models for girls.

How about something that proves we’re making progress?

The #SeeHer movement has a mission to accurately portray all women and girls in the media and advertising so that by 2020, they see themselves reflected as they truly are. We’re seeing progress with the Gender Equality Metric (GEM) becoming an industry standard. The GEM score is a measurement for accountability that allows us all to be better if we choose to be better. #SeeHer includes more than 70 national marketers and supporters who have committed to being better together—representing more than 1,000 brands and a combined $50 billion in US ad spend.

Equality is not only a social imperative; it’s a business imperative: Ads that accurately portray women and girls perform 26 percent better than ads that don’t, according to a study of more than 40,000 ads and media.

What else needs to be done to get there?

We need to share the results of the positive impact for advancing equality through the accurate portrayal of girls and women in media and advertising. It’s also important to create cultures of equality inside organizations, and create conscious mindsets in leadership. It’s rewriting the narrative and not trying to do something, but actually doing it. It’s taking positive forward steps and demanding equality inside a corporation as well as how we reflect equality in our outside messaging. It’s getting more women not only on the screens, but also behind the screens, writing the scripts and producing.


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