Stereotypes Expert Challenges Adland’s Gender Study & Questions ShEqual’s Effectiveness

Stereotypes Expert Challenges Adland’s Gender Study & Questions ShEqual’s Effectiveness

Anne Miles (main photo) is a marketing strategist, advisor, author, speaker and trainer specialising in removing harmful stereotypes from media, marketing and advertising. here, Miles tackles the very prickly topic of stereotypes around gender in Australia’s advertising community…

Reading the results of the latest Women’s Health Victoria study is literally triggering past trauma and abuse through my body right now, I’m literally shaking and feel like a panic attack coming on. Not just because I’m reminded about the atrocities that I’ve been through myself over the years with everything from sexual abuse, financial disadvantage, discrimination, verbal abuse, emotional abuse and even physical abuse in my day job in this industry but also at home to a worse extent. Worse than experiencing all this flashback is seeing continuation of old strategies and campaigns that are proving totally ineffective and I’d go so far as to say will make things worse. As an industry we are getting Diversity and Inclusion all wrong.

I am willing to say publicly that I condemn the ShEqual campaign currently running (ineffectively) in our industry and I believe it will have little if no actual impact in the future either. If there is support for it from the male community I would say it is lip-service and there won’t be tangible or lasting change for the future if it keeps going like it is.

Not only this, if we keep reporting on certain statistics (how terrible men in our industry are) without capturing the full market perspective we will keep seeing the same results. Like Einstein says with the Observer Effect, we impact the outcome just by what we measure. Where is the data that says how some men are abused, hated and objectified too? Our media shows women physically abusing their partners and the world doesn’t blink an eye, as if it is invisible. (No, I’m not saying that domestic violence isn’t real – I’ve been through it myself! I definitely know it is real, and that the extreme cases are currently dominated by men…I’m not stupid). Regardless, we’re not measuring fairly, we’re asking the wrong questions, and questions that are perpetuating the problem and not helping make change because we’re making good men feel excluded and blamed. Good men who could be advocates are clamming up for fear of retribution.

If this WHV study was a market research project for a brand, it would be called out for stacking the survey to validate an existing position and we would not be finding anything useful to go to market with. That’s just bad marketing research practices in my experience.

Right now we know that feminism is not working – I’m not talking about the literal meaning of the word that women are quick to remind everyone about, but the fact that it is a biased word with ‘female’ as the focus and the intention behind most people’s use of it. We know from at least the Canberra University 50/50 study that the world has become worse off in our perceptions of a woman’s role in the home and men perceived as the bread winner in charge of the household in 2019 than it was in 1991 (yes, some slight improvement since 2019 but we’re still in a bad place). That’s appalling and telling us that what we’re doing as an industry and in society is not working. What we have been doing is female-focused campaigning and complaining and it isn’t working.

We also know that more men now think that they are being discriminated against in a backlash and the study by Women’s Agenda shows us that that is 52 per cent of men. That’s a big community who are in a position of power to make change who don’t have any incentive to do anything about it. This study and the work of ShEqual probably will make that rise further too unless something changes in their approach.

Likewise, we know that more men will support a cause that they are a part of than a cause that they are not a part of. That’s also telling us that female focused campaigning will have no effect on this audience when we need them to. We’d have more impact if we were to fight for men’s rights to parent and be recognised as equal and primary carers rather than babysitters in their own homes. If we get men in the home, we open up the world to have women in boardrooms and in a variety of roles that currently exclude them.

Until our industry starts talking about equality as a unified mission, that also includes people who don’t identify in a binary world too, we won’t have any success as an industry at changing this ratio.

We need to focus our efforts on true equality and inclusion and stop wasting time on feminist complaining. We need action. We need more of the following and less of the reporting and talking that is only going to perpetuate the issue further.

Let’s focus on these effective methods instead:

  • We need to treat this problem like a brand problem and talk to the right target audience – and not to ourselves as women. Where are the smart strategists??
  • We need to be thinking of this as a total equality and inclusion issue and stop making it about women only
  • We need to be thinking how we can get men to have more rights (and therefore responsibilities) at home and how that would automatically open up opportunity for women in the workforce.
  • We need the marketing and creative process to change at every step of our workflow to take out the automatic behaviours that harm women (and all minorities actually)
  • We need guidelines that show people how to do the right thing – it is ineffective to tell people what NOT to do without showing them what TO DO (parenting 101)
  • We need policy change and self-regulation in media to take out harmful stereotypes that are the root cause of all this.
  • We need consolidation of our complaints system so that the public can actually know how to complain and to know that something will be done about it
  • We need the discrimination act, disability act, parenting act, and all those other disparate laws to be embedded with equality as a unified system – like the UK do it.
  • We need the parenting law changed so that there can be two Primary carers with equal responsibilities.
  • We need men to know how to manage their mental health and communicate without harming others or putting others down.
  • We need to take our industry’s habitual focus on demographic profiling out of circulation
  • We need to stop brands who repeat offend in perpetuating harmful depictions with proper sanctions in a corrupt self-regulation system and to stop to uphold the equality laws we do have
  • We need consolidation of disparate human rights laws into one enforceable law, and education to go with it

I can honestly say that I am personally working on every one of those actions I propose above, and I am confident that I will have more impact in the world on my own than another tired study and outdated feminist campaigns telling us what we already know, more talk without action, and making men in power positions feel disempowered.

As a survivor of the impact of this problem in the workplace and at home I could not find this study and outdated campaign strategy any more annoying and disappointing if they tried today – and actually triggering. Please stop this biased process that is backlashing. Let’s put well-meaning people’s efforts where it will have actual impact – please.

We need this issue taken out of our hands as an industry now because this study and ShEqual’s position just proves to me that we don’t have the skills and capability to fix the problem on our own. We need a Government intervention now.

Just saying…


Submission to parliament by Anne Miles requesting government intervention and enquiry here:

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