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Eliminating Ads with Gender Stereotypes Will Support Female Leaders

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The 2019 SDG Gender Index, the first index tracking gender equality, has revealed that no country in the world is on the way to achieve gender equality by 2030. The report shows that even developed countries are failing on issues such as gender budgeting, equal representation in powerful positions, and gender pay gaps, leaving women in all countries struggling for equality. Despite these negative findings, some progress is being made to facilitate change in the United Kingdom, which is expected to eliminate some of the barriers women face. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned adverts that reinforce negative gender stereotypes as they restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults and contributes to the lack of gender equality in society.

Lorraine Mills, Director of European Professional Services at The Myers-Briggs Company, one of the world’s largest business psychology providers commented that: “With the latest reported figures on FTSE100 boards showing that the percentage of women in leadership positions has declined for the fourth year, it is clear that a lack of diversity is one of the key issues prohibiting women from progressing in their career. The new regulations from the ASA to eliminate negative ads is a positive move towards gender equality in society at large and the workplace. There has been research for some time showing that media reinforcing negative gender stereotypes have a negative impact on women’s aspirations and outcomes so this shift in advertising standards is a great step in rebalancing.”

Research conducted by The Myers-Briggs Company has shown that 70% of women in leadership roles tend to use the ‘Thinking’ preference to make decisions in the workplace – a preference that is usually more common with men. This reinforces the notion that women must exhibit behaviours that are associated with men to be considered for top jobs as leadership has long been recognised as culturally masculine. For men, the research indicates little difference in the proportion of those who use the ‘Thinking’ compared to ‘Feeling’ preference – the latter approach is often associated with women – across all occupational levels.

Lorraine Mills further commented that:

“Our research reveals some worrying tendencies around workplace diversity and perceptions of female leaders. While the new ad regulations are a crucial move towards equality in the workplace, employers need to do more to level the playing field for women. At The Myers-Briggs Company, we advocate for the importance of improving self-awareness amongst employees, which helps to fight against the unconscious bias that excludes them from entering the race.”

Mills concluded:

“Although the absence of negative gender stereotypes is a welcome move, we need to acknowledge the years it has taken to establish and perpetuate the dated, sexist and scientifically inaccurate stereotypes embedded in our society. While banning these types of ads will be helpful in the long run, communities and organisations cannot rely on it to make the change we need to see in a society that will help us move towards gender equality. To achieve true gender equality, our social institutions and companies must take an active role and invest in developing their teams to build self-awareness and learn how to appreciate the value of diversity of background, perspective and experience to create a positive and successful environment for all. This will not only open the door for women to succeed but also help organisations be more successful through better employee engagement, productivity and retention.”