For women, marketing is still in the same place as it was twelve years ago. In a panel discussion at Advertising Week, Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, discussed comprehensive research on biased representation in advertising.

Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

Using the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ) tool, Di Nonno’s research compiled data from the last twelve years of Cannes winners and shortlists to build a picture of how men and women appeared differently in TV ads. They found that little had improved in over a decade.

“It revealed a level of unconscious bias we didn’t think was possible,” said Di Nonno.

According to their findings, women are still underrepresented in advertising. Additionally, twice as many men as women appeared in TV ads, enjoyed four times as much screen time and spoke three times more dialogue.

Beyond simple inclusion, the Geena Davis Institute’s research revealed heavy disparities between women and men in the types of roles they portrayed. Only 20 percent of female characters in the studied ads were shown to be employed, and 48 percent appeared in kitchens.

Di Nonno argued that this issue has implications beyond the actors starring in commercials. Stating that 58 percent of women reported that they would be inspired to be more ambitious if they saw more women in power, she made the point that advertising, like conventional media, shapes the way young women choose careers and life goals.

And beyond societal goals for equal representation, Di Nonno posited that infantilizing women in modern advertising diminishes an ad’s effectiveness. Women in their 20s are the most represented in television ads, yet it is women in their 50s who make the majority of a family’s purchasing decisions.

Brands should strive to equalize the playing field, Di Nonno argued, and recent research supports her point: Facebook found that promoting gender equality increased customer loyalty by 48 percent.

Editor’s Note: Madeline Di Nonno will be speaking at the October 26 AList Sessions event.