Creative Approaches to Gender Equality

“It's clear that promoting gender equality is not only a force for good, it's a force for growth” – Marc Pritchard, P&G chief brand officer

When we talk about advertising, we often think about companies’ attempts to sell products – at times perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes and bias. And when we talk about animations, we often get frustrated with storylines that repeat traditional gender roles.

Recently, however, we have seen something different. The creative industry has produced commercials, advertisements – and yes, even animations – to push forward powerful messages around gender equality.

Take a look at a new campaign launched by New Zealand Champions for Change “It’s Not That Hard”. It comprises a collection of snappy, humorous videos that challenge unconscious gender prejudices at workplaces and show how simple it is to overcome these biases.

The videos all ask a question specific to workplaces, such as, “How to explain to a colleague that your boss is the best female manager you've ever worked with?” The answer is to remove mention of gender entirely, making the answer: “She is the best manager I've ever worked with”. All ads finish with the tagline “It's not that hard”, showing viewers that overcoming gender bias is as easy as removing gender from the equation.

By eliminating unconscious bias, companies can concentrate on identifying the most competent candidates for the role based on merit.

Animations can also deliver a persuasive lesson. Pixar’s recent short film “Purl” tackles the issue of gender inequality at the workplace. The eight-minute short film – written, directed and produced by female filmmakers – uses humour to show the serious challenges women face in a hyper-masculine work environment and their attempts to fit in.

The tale of Purl – a plucky and energetic pink ball of yarn who works at a financial startup called B.R.O. Capital and finds herself being constantly ignored and sidelined at work – is a story that many women can relate to, including the writer and director Kristen Lester as well as the producer Gillian Libbert-Ducan.

TWF launched its own tongue-in-cheek video, “Flipping the Script”, featuring three of Hong Kong’s leading female business leaders interviewing a male candidate for a board position. They pose questions to the male candidate that female candidates often hear, such as childcare arrangements or whether they are sensitive and emotional. It addresses the unconscious bias faced by women in the workplace – just like the New Zealand campaign and challenges viewers to think differently.

We welcome these sorts of creative approaches in advancing discussions on gender equality in the workplace. Numerous pieces of research show that gender parity is good for business. Companies that have more balanced representation of women in senior leadership positions yield higher revenue and profits. If the numbers aren’t persuasive enough, a more creative approach is needed to debunk our unconscious biases.

What creative approaches are you seeing to challenge gender stereotypes and advance gender equality?

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Written by

The Women's Foundation