Across media and business, the disparity in representation for women only grows when you view the gender gap through a multicultural lens. The gap still exists despite knowing that women are more likely to carry more of the household responsibilities, homeschooling and childcare responsibilities, make the daily purchasing decisions, be less financially secure, and feel more isolated. The pandemic has only compounded the pressure women are facing today, threatening to roll back the progress we’ve made.
This year, we #choosetochallenge the gender stereotypes and messages that are shaping these cultural norms, and we are inviting everyone to do the same. Our goal is to help the media industry creative inclusive content, powered by diverse content creators not just because it matters ethically, but also because it matters to the viewers who are ultimately your consumers.
The Female Economy
Globally, women’s engagement in the labor market lags behind men by 23 percentage points according to the World Economic Forum. Yet, women’s spending power and influence should not be underestimated.
While many (61%) adults were able to save money in the past year due to COVID-related restrictions, women were more likely to take on more financial burdens. Over two-thirds (67%) said they did not save and 61% said they avoided making major purchases during COVID, compared to nearly half of adults 35-49 and 45% of adults 18-34 did make a major ($500+) purchase during 2020. While vaccinations are underway and women are eager to resume normal activities, women are still shouldering much of the household and childcare responsibilities, which could be one reason why women are the most likely to feel it’ll take over a year to get back to their typical day-to-day life. As advertisers looking to ramp up their investments, they should stay cognizant of the challenges this group has faced and the time it may take to recover from those setbacks.
IT’S TIME TO BE SEEN
Representation matters. The way women are portrayed on screen can affect how they are treated and understood, as well how they see themselves. In the workplace, lack of senior visibility means lack of job advancement, fewer corporate resources and lower financial security.
Women make up 52% of the U.S. population, yet they only have 38% of the share of screen. The visibility of women differs across platforms, but streaming video-on-demand comes closest to delivering gender parity at 48.9% representation. A deeper dive into gender by identity groups shows that the platform represented LGBTQ, East Asian, Black and White Females at or above parity. Considering the growing adoption of streaming across all age groups, these diverse programs are able to increasingly wield more power to influence the way people think, how they form their identity, and what they think of others. Therefore, it’s not only important that those in the media represent the diversity of our world on screen, it’s imperative they do it accurately.
While there have been more roles for women on TV that break traditional stereotypes, there’s still plenty of work to be done to show them in more collaborative, leadership and financially independent themes. The prominent narratives featuring women are still more likely to be centered around household life and friends such as friends, husbands, fights and arguments, houses, and family life.
Of all female-led households in 2020, more than half are led by women 50-64 years old and last year they spent nearly $800 million across 25 categories, compared to $608 million for women 18 – 34 and $680 million for women 35 – 49. They are caretakers and breadwinners, with 62% of Hispanic women, 59% of Native American women and 61% of Black women over 50 being the grandparent of a child under 18. Not quite ready for retirement, these economic contributors showed an 11% increase in the past two years, taking jobs with at least 20 hours a week.
Yet women over the age of 50, who represent 20% of the population, the share of time on-screen is just 8%. That means women over 50 are 60% less likely to see themselves in programming and when they are included on-screen, they typically play stereotypical matriarchal and motherly roles. Advertisers should pay attention because women of color and 50+ are key drivers of weekly NFL ratings, talent competitions and primetime dramas with Black female leads. Plus they’re tech savvy. Women 50+ increased their internet-connected device usage during primetime by 51% year-over-year in January 2021.
Black consumers are the largest ethnic group watching live TV, playing video games, streaming audio and consuming media across devices. Yet, Black women are being left off the screen. Compared to their population estimates, women are underrepresented across broadcast and cable. A deeper look at the reality, news and weather, drama and comedy genres shows that across all black women were underrepresented. What’s more is that the narratives surrounding women of color most commonly include themes of dysfunction, emotional, personal relationships, suspenseful, challenging, melodramatic, police, murder, cities and pursuits.
As Black women look to find themselves and role models for their children on screen, especially during a time of intense social activism, they’re leaning into the stories that reflect their reality most accurately. It is critical to expand the roles of Black women and Black men because storytelling helps to educate, and education helps change stereotypes.
When the pandemic hit and sent many workers home, it impacted women disproportionately. While many companies worked to accommodate their workers, women were disproportionately dealing with caretaking, childcare and homeschooling responsibilities, managing the “always on” culture, and fighting burnout. As the pandemic wears on, many of these challenges continue to loom large. The 2020 Women in the Workplace study states suggest that these COVID-related challenges could cause as many as two million women to leave the workplace. Gracenote Inclusion Analytics shows that women already make up more than have of adults who are temporarily employed.
In June 2020, a Nielsen survey of employees working from home showed that nearly a quarter of women, 23%, felt somewhat disengaged or disengaged compared to just 15% of men. While many companies have put in place resources and policies to support employees during COVID-19, many of these same challenges have carried over to 2021. Companies have an impetus—perhaps now more than ever—to work to ensure that there are best-practices implemented to keep a diverse workforce engaged as a way to foster productivity.
Media coverage for regular league events heavily favors men’s sports. For example, a 2018 Nielsen Sports study found that the volume of media coverage of women’s sports across Europe ranged from as low as 2% to just 12% at peak times. This situation changes, however, during a two-week period every two years when the eyes of the world focus on the Olympics, the only global sporting event characterized by true gender parity. The balanced coverage during the Olympics is especially warranted when we look at interest levels in the Olympics. In fact, interest among females in the Winter Olympics is higher than overall interest in the games.
HOW TO REACH WOMEN
Women are savvy consumers of news, information and other media across devices. During the pandemic, local news viewership increased 48% among women. They are also growing listeners of podcasts, making up 45% of all podcast consumers and over-indexing in podcasts about family, health, the arts, true crime and more. No matter what media they’re consuming, truth, transparency and real representation matter.
The top genre among female podcast listeners in the U.S. is ‘kids and family,’ with a 77% audience composition. While that may not be surprising, what may be is the fact that among the top ten most popular podcasts that are listened to by women, the category of ‘true crime’ comes in at a whopping 60%.
Perhaps what this tells us is that regardless of characteristics such as gender, podcasts listeners are a diverse group with diverse interests and that women are among the most voracious consumers of podcasts of all types and subjects. This is a coveted demographic for marketers and advertisers, as female-led households in the U.S. increased 41% in the last five years. Among the top ten most popular podcasts that are listened to by women are true crime (60%), religion and spirituality (58%), education (54%), society and culture (53%), fiction (50%), and TV, film, and music (48%).