Advertising regulator to introduce new rule on gender stereotyping

The Advertising Standards Authority looks to tackle outdated gender roles

Josie Clarke
Thursday 14 December 2017 01:09
The new rule will not ban all forms of gender stereotypes, such as a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks
The new rule will not ban all forms of gender stereotypes, such as a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks

A new rule on gender stereotyping in advertising will be introduced next year to help tackle harmful and outdated practices, the regulator has said.

A consultation on the rule to ban harmful stereotyping in advertising will begin in spring after a review by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) earlier this year presented the case for stronger regulation of campaigns that feature stereotypical gender roles.

The Committees of Advertising Practice (Cap), which writes the advertising codes, committed to drawing up new standards following the review, but said it was now developing a rule and guidance to help advertisers "know where to draw the line".

The ASA said companies had responded positively and constructively to its report with suggestions for voluntary action, but said it welcomed Cap's decision as there was "more to do".

The ASA's review suggested that some advertising could reinforce harmful stereotypes, which could restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults.

The new rule will not ban all forms of gender stereotypes, with evidence falling short of calling for a ban on ads depicting scenarios such as a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks.

But the review found certain types of depictions were likely to be "problematic", such as a woman having sole responsibility for cleaning up her family's mess or a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks.

Cap spokeswoman Ella Smillie said: "Some gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children by limiting how people see themselves, how others see them and potentially restricting the life decisions they take.

"The introduction of a new advertising rule from 2018 will help advertisers to know where to draw the line on the use of acceptable and unacceptable stereotypes."

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, we welcome Cap's decision to introduce a new rule on harmful gender stereotypes in ads.

"Although companies have responded positively and constructively to our report, with welcome examples of voluntary action, there is more to do.

"We are determined to make sure our regulation calls out harmful and outdated practices and a new rule in the advertising codes will help tackle the harmful gender stereotypes identified in our review of the evidence."

The move follows an announcement earlier this year by a Unilever-led alliance of major brands and organisations aiming to end gender stereotyping in advertising.

The Unstereotype Initiative, sponsored by UN Women, also includes Facebook, Google, Alibaba and Mars, as well as industry bodies such as the UK's Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), and aims to work against stereotypical gender portrayals such as women being presented as cooks in family adverts.


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