Something to think about:

brands and gender inequality.png

In Fancy’s groundbreaking survey of women over 40and their feelings regarding advertising and marketing, 80% of the respondents told us they felt that brands perpetuate gender inequality. 

Woah. Really? Still? 

Really. Still.

And before you start ticking off the brands you think are changing the dialogue, promoting gender equality, and reflecting a changing world, think about who those ads are targeting. Think about who they are portraying. Think about who they are implicitly saying is important. 

Women over 40 see themselves presented in very specific roles, if at all.

Many of the women we surveyed said that outside of anti-aging and pharmaceutical ads they really didn’t see anyone their age, and even those women didn’t reflect the way our respondents see themselves. Which, in case you’re wondering, is pretty awesome.

As one woman put it, “[advertisers] perpetuate this idea that women over 40 are fundamentally missing something—be it looks, or peace of mind, or a man, or children or earning power... the default is that we're lacking in some way. “ 

Men aren’t depicted as deficient, rather, advertising treats them as powerful.

A Google/Geena Davis Institute study of Super Bowl ads pointed out that male characters are shown at work and as leaders more often than female characters. And, they’re 2x as likely to be over 40, while over 75% of female characters are under 40.

“Men are glorified as being one step away from awesome, women are portrayed as one step away from crying,” stated one of the survey respondents. It’s a powerful message to internalize. To be told that men need the product to achieve greatness; women need it to prevent total failure. 

One place where women dominate the advertising ecosystem is anti-aging.

Women are reminded on a daily basis just how important it is to soften those fine lines, smooth those deep wrinkles, cover (100%!) those grays, fill those cheeks. Erase those years. Ignore the life you’ve lived. Quick! What’s an anti-aging ad featuring a man? Yeah, didn’t think so.

It’s like one woman said, “Women over 40 either want to eliminate wrinkles or are sick and need to be medicated. It's depressing.”

She has a point.

Women over 40 do show up a lot in pharmaceutical advertisements.

And the viewer is gently requested to ask her doctor if *something unpronounceable* is right for her. Maybe it is. She doesn’t even know what the product is for, but she’s so used to being told she’s deficient in one thing or another, not whole, not worthy without the product, that asking her doctor does cross her mind.

The thing is, when women see themselves portrayed with the full lives they are actually leading, when they are shown in roles that resemble real life, when who they really are is embraced by advertisers and agencies, work will be created that’s relevant, interesting, and by the way, motivating. 

And you know what? It’s not that hard.

  1. Understand your product and who buys it. Is it women over 40? (There are 42 million women in the US between the ages of 40 and 60. They have to be buying something.) If so, show her. Especially if the default is to show a man.

  2. Think about your team. At the office and at the agency. Who’s making your advertising? Who’s approving it? Who’s producing it? Any women over 40? If not, add them. They’ll make a difference. 

  3. Don’t be lazy. Take a moment to get to know her. Think about how your product fits into the life she’s actually living. Find something real to connect and prove you get her. It’s what you’re supposed to be doing for any target anyway. 


Hello?... is anyone out there?… Women 40+ feel completely ignored by brands.


Life Between the Bread: Women Over 40 Are the Sandwich Generation