According to a decade of data collected by iStock, Australian brands turned to imagery depicting outdated gender stereotypes during the pandemic.
Tracking the keyword ‘women’, iStock by Getty Images found that in 2020, ANZ brands and businesses reverted to gender stereotypes.
Images of mothers home-schooling were used at almost twice the rate of images of fathers. Almost none of these images depicted women of diverse body types, those with disabilities, or those over the age of 50.
60 per cent of the images were of white women.
Gender inequality during the pandemic has been widely reported. The impetus on women to do the bulk of domestic work, and the bulk of home-schooling while still maintaining their careers has been a continuous issue with global impact.
Earlier this year, the UNHCR also released a report showing that the pandemic had worsened the inequality faced by women and girls, particularly those from vulnerable populations, like refugees or those who have been displaced.
iStock’s research shows that this expectation of women not just be workers, but also teachers and cleaners, extended to imagery used by brands.
In contrast, previous years have shown women in a more diverse range of roles.
2012 saw ‘active senior women’ in the most downloaded images, and themes of friendship and fun dominating the imagery. However, all were Caucasian, and were most often depicted with friends or husbands and partners.
Again in 2014, ‘active senior’ was among the most popular visuals. These were less posed and more candid, with a particular focus on outdoor imagery. However, they were primarily still Caucasian.
By 2016, the friendship-themed imagery was still popular, however now focused on younger generations. 2016 also saw Asian women featured in the most downloaded imagery for the first time.
2018 was the first time a First Nations woman was at the top of the most downloaded images list. More ethnically diverse women featured in imagery, as well as women working from home and leading business meetings.
Finally, in 2019, this “authentic representation” continued to rise, with a woman entrepreneur, senior women in business and a First Nations woman and her family as the top most downloaded images of the year.
The trend for 2020, therefore, shows a backtrack to problematic trends.
Getty Images’ visual experts found that 62 per cent of women in Australia and New Zealand feel they aren’t authentically represented across media and advertising.
41 per cent of women desperately want to see more ‘people that are like me and my life. in advertising.
Using diverse imagery is also essential for business, as 85 per cent of women look for diversity in advertising when deciding what companies and brands to use.
65 per cent of women prefer to buy from brands representing people like themselves.
As the pandemic’s grip begins to soften, brands must ensure they are depicting women authentically rather than falling back on gender stereotypes.
Featured Image: iStock/vgajic
The above image was the most downloaded image on iStock related to home-schooling in 2020.