Women in the Workplace & in Media: Recent Trends & Case Studies | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Women in the Workplace & in Media: Recent Trends & Case Studies


In anticipation of Women's History Month, many brands will be releasing ads meant to celebrate, showcase, and represent women of diverse backgrounds, as well as create programs meant to help women in various aspects of their life, for instance, by dispelling stereotypes, aiding women in the workplace, and promoting knowledge when it comes to health care. With this in mind, we decided to take a look at recent trends, case studies, and research findings when it comes to women's portrayals in the media, workplace conditions, and brand activations and/or developments.

For instance, in ANA's 2024 Diversity Report, the study found that gender diversity in the advertising industry is relatively high (67.2 percent female and 32.6 percent male); however, the gender diversity for higher level jobs decreases. The report stated that the "higher the job level, the lower the percentage of women: 74.0 percent for admin (the lowest job level) and 57.7 percent for senior."

When it comes to media portrayals, SeeHer discovered that depictions of women in ads are still often based on stereotypes, as evidenced by this graph, illustrating that 77 percent of women are portrayed as caregivers versus leaders at 23 percent:

Further, when female respondents to a GWI survey, cited by SeeHer, were asked what they would want gender representation to look like, 73 percent said they wanted to feel support, 71 percent wanted equal pay, and 69 percent wanted the same opportunities as men. Over half also wanted people to respect non-traditional gender roles.

In addition, agency Robert Half found that 58 percent of "working women feel fairly paid in their current role versus 72 percent of men — and higher pay is the main reason women professionals are considering a job change." Moreover, women want more flexibility when it comes to their schedule, as the agency found that 34 percent of working women sought "greater flexibility in choosing where and when they work."

Robert Half also discussed inequalities women face in fields such as tech, where it cited a finding from Statista stating that "women represent less than 10 [percent] of the software developer workforce globally" in a blog. The blog also stated that "a 2022 report from the Women Business Collaborative found that women are underrepresented in C-suite technology roles across public and private companies, never reaching higher than 27 [percent] representation."

When it comes to brand activations and case studies, Protiviti and the Girl Scouts are both organizations that are trying to create positive change for women at work. For example, Protiviti, a global business consulting firm, wanted to create a campaign that celebrated and connected women in banking. Thus, for WIB Week, in which participants go to New York City for networking and professional development events, Protiviti wanted to host professional development and other activities for its clients, as well as celebrate the progress women have made in the financial sector.

To do this, according to the ANA case study, Protiviti created "focus groups to develop the silhouette motif that's distinctly feminine, but inclusive of all races so that every woman could see herself in the imagery. The concept was based on the idea of showing a single page per year to represent the contributions of women in banking over the last 20 years. The execution of pages overlapping one another highlighted the diversity of the women involved and how they shaped the industry over the last two decades. In addition to the advertising and branding, Protiviti would host clients at WIB week events — providing unique access to professional development and networking activities." 

Similarly, the Girl Scouts are dedicated to nurturing the ambitions and dreams of girls; the organization takes a special interest in building awareness around issues like equal pay by using the sales of its cookies to fund programs for girls in STEM. According to an ANA event recap based on a presentation from the Girl Scouts, the organization cited data regarding women in the workplace, with the recap stating, "According to McKinsey's 'Women in the Workplace,' women remained significantly outnumbered in entry level management. They held just 38 percent of manager-level positions, while men held 62 percent. Further, women hold only 18 percent of top leadership positions, according to IBM. Moreover, according to 'Global Gender Gap Report' via World Economic Forum, at the current rate of progress, it will take 131 years to reach full parity."

The recap went on to note that "for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 82 cents," according to National Partnership for Women & Families.

Regardless of how a brand shows up for women, whether through ads, development programs, reports, and/or funding small businesses, it's as important as ever for marketers to continue showing up by asking the rights questions that determine the pain points to be met — as well as showing up where women and girls need support most.

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.