Alongside other media, advertising shapes and reinforces gendered ideas about what it means to be a woman or man and how women and men are valued in our society.
Advertising frequently exploits and reinforces harmful gender norms and sexualised depictions of women. These depictions have negative impacts on women’s health and wellbeing, contribute to the attitudes and behaviours that drive violence against women and help to perpetuate gender inequality in our society more broadly.
Because advertising is so influential, it also has the potential to positively transform gender norms and to support and normalise gender equality. For many years, community groups, academics and industry activists – including Women’s Health Victoria – have been raising awareness about stereotyping and sexualisation in advertising and advocating for change.
In an Australian first, Women’s Health Victoria has been funded by the Victorian Government to engage industry, businesses, regulators, academics, activists and community members to build support for action to end sexism in advertising. To deliver this project, we are collaborating with expert partners Our Watch, Respect Victoria, RMIT University, City of Melbourne, Venus Comms, and the Shannon Company.
In its first year, the project has focused on:
Consolidating the evidence on the impacts of gender inequality in advertising, through the publication of three research papers
Engaging and bringing together key stakeholders in the advertising industry, business, regulation and the community
We have established are establishing an Industry cross-sectoral Reference Group to help guide the project. The Industry Reference Group currently comprises 13 representatives from creative agencies, media owners, media buyers and product owners, who are providing advice on how best to engage and build the capacity of the advertising industry to tackle gender inequality in advertising. If you are interested in joining the Industry Reference Group, fill in the expression of interest form here
Impacts on Women's Health
Our research shows sexualised and stereotyped ads harm women’s health and reinforce the attitudes that cause violence against women.
Community members think sexist ads are harmful and want greater regulation, according to WHV’s research with RMIT.
Submission on advertising Code of Ethics
Our recommendations for improving the Australian advertisers’ Code of Ethics to prevent harmful gender portrayals.