26% of British women still think their ethnic group is portrayed negatively in adverts

Findings from a recent survey highlighted the struggles faced by women from minority ethnic backgrounds around prejudice, stereotyping and visibility in the media. Eight in 10 (81%) say discrimination is widespread in the UK, and 63% believe it is getting worse.

The study was carried out by media agency UM on behalf of the Unstereotype Alliance, an advertising and media industry-wide initiative convened by UN Women to challenge stereotypes and advance progressive representations. of all people.

He interviewed 2,000 British women from a wide range of ethnic minorities, including black African and Caribbean, Jewish, white continental European, Middle Eastern, South East Asian and Asian from South.

What did the investigation find?

  • More than a third of women (37%) said they “don’t feel like equal citizens”, and another third (31%) say they experience subtle acts of racism at least once a month, while only a quarter (23%) experienced overt and explicit acts of racism just as often.

  • Additionally, more than a third (37%) say they feel pressured to look a certain way in order to fit in with those around them.

  • Many women surveyed pointed to the media and advertising industries as factors contributing to negative perceptions: more than a quarter (26%) say their ethnic group is portrayed negatively in advertisements, with women of middle- Eastern (30%) and Black Caribbean (29%) most likely to feel this.

What are the major issues?

  • “Invisibility” poses a significant challenge in advertising and is keenly felt by women from certain backgrounds: including 52% of Middle Eastern women, 50% of South Asian women and 48% of Jewish women say seldom or never see people from their ethnic group. in the ads.

  • Authentic representation in advertising of a range of products and services was considered rare, with brands in the entertainment (34%), clothing/fashion (32%) and dating apps (31%) categories considered the worst stereotyping offenders.

  • YouTube was named the best media/advertising channel to represent minority ethnic groups by nearly half (49%) of respondents, followed by traditional linear TV (47%). However, advertising on social platforms was seen as much less inclusive: only 36% recognized people from their ethnic groups represented in Instagram ads and 27% in Facebook ads, while Twitter ads came last (22 %).

  • Traditional media other than television also performed poorly: only a quarter of the sample felt that radio and newspaper advertising (25% each) showed sufficient representation of their ethnic groups.

What can industry do about it?

Despite these shortcomings, many ethnic minority women agree that brands and advertisers have a key role to play in reducing discrimination and stereotyping. They were seen as the second most influential factor in tackling inequality and injustice in the UK after ‘famous role models’. Additionally, nearly three-quarters (72%) say they would be more likely to purchase products and services from brands and businesses that portray people from their ethnic group(s) in a positive and authentic in their advertisements.

Melda Simon, UK Head of the Unstereotype Alliance at UN Women, said: “What we see and hear in advertising and on media channels affects how we see ourselves and the world around us. This research demonstrates the importance of approaching intersectionality through a culturally nuanced lens that considers the experiences of people from diverse communities.

“The advertising, media and creative industries are all about influence, so there is no longer a logical partner as we try to rid society of the ingrained stereotypes that hold humanity back.”

Rachel Forde, UK Managing Director of UM, added: “The case for inclusion and authenticity among brands and advertisers is a business case, as well as a moral case. If people see people like them in your ads, they’re much more likely to buy your products. Brands can be more successful and better corporate citizens simply by reflecting their entire audience in their marketing. »

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