Last year, research by conglomerate Unilever laid bare the stereotypes that exist in advertising. Just 3% of ads featured women in a leadership or managerial role. And 40% of women did not identify with their portrayal in advertising spots.
Since then, the company behind brands like Ben & Jerry's and Dove—not to mention the world's second-largest advertiser—has been trying to feature both sexes in more realistic roles through an initiative called Unstereotype. The shift started with a campaign for Knorr stock cubes that showed men, rather than women, in the kitchen.
Tomorrow, Unilever's efforts will receive a big boost as it co-convenes with UN Women at the inaugural session of the Unstereotype Alliance at the Cannes Lions ad industry conference. Alliance participants, which include global consumer-facing companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Diageo and AT&T, will try to proactively address and eliminate stereotypes in advertising worldwide. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are sending representatives to the meeting, as are major ad agencies IPG and WPP.
With support from WPP, UN Women will also launch a biennial study on attitudes toward gender equality within the advertising industry. The findings, says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women and under-secretary general of the UN, will "fuel political will and financial muscle for change."
The tide already seems to be turning against ads that feature sexist characterizations of women. In February, Volkswagen’s Audi released a heartstring-tugging Superbowl spot with the tagline: “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.” In March, burger chain Carl's Jr. broke with its tradition of running ads with bikini-clad supermodels.
Companies that provide more authentic portrayals of both sexes could be rewarded by customers. That's what happened to Unilever's Dove brand after it rolled out its "real beauty" campaign featuring women of all shapes and sizes more than a decade ago. At the campaign's ten-year mark, the brand had seen sales increase from $2.5 billion to $4 billion. Keith Weed, global chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever, has pointed to it as early evidence that there's a business incentive for ad stereotypes to change.
Warren's secret weapon
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway rarely relies on people outside the company to educate potential targets. But ever since Zypora Kupferberg, who has her own investment business, pitched the billionaire Detlev Louis Motorradvertriebs, a German retailer of motorcycle apparel and accessories that he ended up buying for €400 million in 2015, she's been Buffett's scout for investment opportunities in Europe’s most powerful country.
By the book
Under the less oppressive President Hassan Rouhani, female authors in Iran are starting to see their books in print. Fereshteh Ahmadi’s short story Harry Is Always Lost, for instance, was hit by the censors under the previous regime—perhaps due to gentle references to female sexuality—but is now available in print.
That was quick
Sylvie Goulard, who was appointed French defense minister in President Emmanuel Macron's gender-equal Cabinet last month, has resigned amid an investigation into the misuse of European parliamentary funds in her party. She's been asked not to be considered for reappointment as Macron reshuffles his Cabinet following Sunday's legislative election.
Tech at the top
The four highest-paid female CEOs in the Fortune 500—Oracle's Safra Catz, HPE's Meg Whitman, IBM's Ginni Rometty, and former Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer—all have one thing in common: they run tech companies.
Waisting no time
When White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was asked to explain why Press Secretary Sean Spicer was holding fewer on-camera press briefings, he said, "Sean got fatter," with no further explanation. On Twitter, Chelsea Clinton, of all people, came to Spicer's defense, decrying Bannon's "fat-shaming" and any suggestion that his response was just a joke.
Ree Drummond stars in The Pioneer Woman cooking show on Food Network and is the creator of the blog of the same name. Earlier this month, she extended her brand even further with a print magazine sold exclusively at Walmart. The special issue was so popular that it sold out in a week; publisher Hearst is printing another 100,000 copies.
A dangerous directive
A new government leaflet on mother and child care in India is advising pregnant women to avoid all meat, eggs, and lustful thoughts. It's being seen as the latest push toward vegetarianism by PM Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government, which advocates against consuming beef. (Hindus consider cows sacred.) Doctors are calling the directive wholly off-base—and even dangerous—considering the country's poor record with maternal health. Women are already often the last to eat in traditionally patriarchal Indian households.
Bloomberg reports that China has invited U.S. first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner to visit later this year, the latest sign of the couple's growing influence over foreign relations. They both have official jobs in the White House, but no previous government experience. Their trip could precede a visit by the president himself.
Muslim model Halima Aden is the first 'Allure' covergirl to wear a hijab
Opium use booms in Afghanistan, creating a ‘silent tsunami’ of addicted women
The sales projections for Kim Kardashian’s new makeup line are insane
Teen calls out her school's sexist dress code in hilarious yearbook quote
—Refugee-turned-supermodel Mari Malek on the decades-long war afflicting her native South Sudan