#SeeHer Study Shows Ads Directed by Women Offer More Authentic Portrayals of Women

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A new study examining 288 TV commercials find that 30-second spots directed by women yield higher Gender Equality Measure scores than those directed by men.

TV commercials directed by women offer more accurate and authentic portrayals of women than do commercials directed by men — and they accomplish that without diminishing the portrayals of men in those ads.

That is the key finding of the SeeHer Advertising Directors Study, which released earlier this summer. The study examined 288 30-second commercials, assigning each a Gender Equality Measure (GEM) score, which measures portrayals of women and men in media and advertising. Forty-nine of the commercials tested (17 percent) were directed by women, and 239 of them (83 percent) were directed by men. Each spot was evaluated by 150 respondents, with a gender breakdown reflective of the U.S. general population.

Infographic: 89% of commercial direct by women (vs. 72% directed by men) have GEM female scores of 100+

The study found that commercials directed by women generated GEM scores from female respondents four points higher than those directed by men, a statistically significant increase. In addition, 89 percent of commercials directed by women have female GEM scores above 100, compared to 72 percent of commercials directed by men.

The GEM methodology was developed by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) as a data-driven method to identify unconscious gender bias. It asks consumers, both female and male, how much they agree or disagree with four statements:

  • I think highly of the way women are presented.
  • Women are presented in a respectful manner.
  • It is inappropriate how women are featured.
  • Women are presented in a manner where they can be seen as good role models for other women and young girls.

The responses are used to calculate the GEM score.

Several people on a film crew

The stronger GEM scores for commercials directed by women in the study were driven by how women were presented in the ads, whether they were depicted in a respectful manner and if they were viewed as positive role models.

#SeeHer is the ANA’s initiative to increase the accurate portrayal of women and girls in media and advertising. In late 2018, the GEM methodology was expanded to test ads in 13 countries outside the United States.

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