Key Takeaways from SeeHer’s Latest Report on Gender Equality | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Key Takeaways from SeeHer’s Latest Report on Gender Equality


The ongoing, collective journey toward achieving gender equality is, and will always be, a community-led effort. SeeHer's latest report, Global Perceptions of Progress on Gender Equality, illustrates that gender inequality is still a persistent and global issue; it takes all institutions, including marketing, to change perceptions, fight for equal rights, and pave the way forward for all.

Overall, the study found that gender equality still has a long way to go; events over the last few years have deepened the cracks globally, as the study found that people were more optimistic pre-pandemic. This hopefulness eroded post-pandemic, indicating a regression:

At the outset of the pandemic, a substantial 69 percent of global consumers held optimistic views regarding gender equality. Within a year of the pandemic's onset, this optimism increased, with 75 percent expressing hope for a positive transformation in gender dynamics. However, by 2022, amid the disproportionate impact on women's economic recovery, coupled with global conflicts and regressive legislation against women's rights, consumer sentiment plummeted to 59 percent. Presently, nearly half of global consumers (46 percent) view the current landscape as the most adverse for gender equality in recent memory.

And yet, there is also a discrepancy between what people believe and what people are living; the report found that "94 percent of adults worldwide believe in the importance of ensuring women have equal rights in all aspects of their lives," and yet only "16 percent of global consumers felt that women were portrayed accurately all the time in advertising and media."

This disconnection is further shown when respondents were asked whose efforts should advance equality; many respondents said women — as they are "perceived as the most direct individual beneficiaries of gender equality and so have the primary responsibility to drive change."

This illustrates that the labor and work of change falls on the very people whose lives aren't given the same rights or equities, thus ultimately being valued and protected less. Furthermore, that effort is misguidely seen as a "benefit," rather than a human right, shedding light on the implication that gender equality is mistakenly seen as a one-sided issue whose benefits wouldn't also help all genders including men. 

Further, it emphasizes the often-hidden labor women already put into advancing equality when it comes to work, caretaking, health, sexuality, and other facets of their lives. For example, in the report, almost 60 percent of U.S. men "felt women had more responsibility" to advance equality versus 53 percent of U.S. women — while in the U.K, 57 percent of U.K. women felt men had more responsibility versus only 45 percent of men. In India, 72 percent of adults believed promoting gender equality is a woman's responsibility, and in Mexico, 73 percent of women felt it was their responsibility versus 66 percent of men. Lastly, in Japan, 72 percent of women felt this way versus 70 percent of men.

These figures highlight the internalized feelings both men and women share when it comes to whose "job" it is to promote and work for gender equality — but even more importantly, it shows that women are expected to solve the problem of their own inequity and/or oppression, versus seeing collective help as a force for good.

So, where does marketing fit into all of this? Globally, people believe advertising can help dispel stereotypes and promote positivity, as 82 percent of adults globally believe this.

Below are more key highlights from the study:

  • The World Economic Forum's 2023 Global Gender Gap Report found that the global gender parity gap has reached a closure of only 68 percent. The report then stated that "this indicates that globally, women are perceived as 70 percent equal to men across various dimensions, encompassing rights, political empowerment, workforce/economic participation, educational attainment, health, and societal perceptions." In addition, the report also mentioned that Japan has "the highest disparity, rating women as most unequal (5.4/10), trailed by the U.K. (6.4/10) and the U.S. (6.6/10) in societal aspects."

  • The World Economic Forum also found that the U.S. went from 27th to 43rd out of 146 countries in gender equality.

  • The 2023 Global Perceptions of Progress of Gender Equality, an ongoing thought leadership initiative between SeeHer and dentsu, found that across the five countries surveyed, women are "perceived as 70 percent equal to men across various dimensions, encompassing equal rights, political empowerment, workforce/economic participation, educational attainment, health, and societal perceptions."

  • In the U.S., confidence in media portraying women accurately decreased, from 32 percent in 2021 to 24 percent in 2023. Further, the proportion of respondents feeling hopeful about the future decreased from 47 percent in 2021 to 39 percent in 2023.

  • The U.K. and India have the most concern over gender equality, prioritizing it over "other forms of discrimination and inequality higher than other countries." In Mexico, 91 percent felt gender equality is a top concern; in Japan, 77 percent felt it was a "pressing concern."

  • Globally, over the past decade, only 32 percent believe "a lot of progress has been made."

  • Globally, sexualization and harassment was the top barrier cited to gender equality. See other concerns below:

One respondent, in the U.K., aptly summed up what they would like to see going forward, which should be the standard for people of all genders: "I would like to see women portrayed as we actually are ... diverse, unique, strong, adaptable rather than trying to fit us into stereotypes. I would like to see women and men being shown as being in harmony with each other rather than being in competition." 

Fundamentally, the report presents the complexities and nuances of how dispelling gender myths helps and uplifts everyone, from household dynamics to workplace culture to interpersonal relationships to how children navigate the world to how people actually perceive themselves.

The views and opinions expressed in Industry Insights are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Joanna Fragopoulos is a director of editorial and content development at ANA.