Report: Perception Of Gender Equality Has Declined Since 2021



SeeHer, the gender equity organization founded by the Association of National Advertisers in 2016,  recently released its “2023 Global Perceptions  of Progress on  Gender Equality” report, in partnership with dentsu, and the results were far from reassuring. The second such report, following one conducted in 2021, not only shows a lack of progress, but a backslide in how audiences perceive gender equality, and the portrayal of women in media and marketing, on a global scale.


SeeHer reported a drop in respondents who said they felt “very  hopeful” about the future of gender equality, from nearly half (47%) in 2021, to 39% in 2023.

“While gender equality remains  a key concern in the United States, we are witnessing  a discernible onset of disillusionment,” the organization wrote in the report.



Latha Sarathy, chief research officer, ANA, SeeHer, said the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 was a huge driver of negative sentiment in the U.S. She also noted that in the 2023 World Economic Forum report, the U.S. fell from 27th to 43rd in gender equality – out of 146 countries represented.

“Here in the U.S, we may feel that we have moved beyond stereotypes, but consumers feel that we haven't.” Sarathy told Marketing Daily. “It actually went backwards.”

The number of respondents saying that they felt “media usually accurately portrays women,” fell from 32% to just 24%.

The role of marketing in the recipe for change

“Accurate representation and portrayal, depending on what country you're in, is incredibly nuanced,” SeeHer President Christine Guilfoyle told Marketing Daily.

“When you talk about women of color, nuances are everything,” she said. “When you see yourself, you want to see yourself portrayed fully. It is absolutely critical when thinking about representation.”

She explained that a top concern for Hispanic women was that they felt they weren’t portrayed as role models, while Black women were more likely to cite overly sexualized portrayals.

“Being there is the starting point,” she added. “Asian women are [virtually] not represented at all, and when they are it’s very stereotypical.”

The report cited a finding that “gender barriers often find their roots in media and advertising, where stereotypes are reinforced and women are often portrayed in traditional roles and settings, thereby hindering the progression of breaking gender boundaries” as a key insight from its previous report.

“Consumers felt that media and marketing are critical in shaping gender roles and feel they should have responsibility to do something about this,” Sarathy said.

“Leaving money on the table”

“We know that when marketers get this right, it drives business growth,” Guilfoyle said.

With an emerging generation of consumers who are more mindful of which brands align with their values, that’s only becoming more true. According to another study from SeeHer conducted with Horowitz, entitled "Gen Z Vibe Check,"  Gen Z is notable both for being the most diverse generation, and for its openness to gender fluidity and willingness to challenge gender norms. That report notes that 70% of Gen Z males expressed an “openness to doing housework, sharing their emotions,  and stay-at-home parenting,” which makes it all the more important for marketers to reassess how they portray men.

“We can expect that Alpha – the 14 and under generation – will only be more forward-thinking,” Guilfoyle said, emphasizing that brands need to consider the long-term consequences of decisions they’re making now, or risk losing younger consumers for the long term. “Are you prepared to dismiss the lifetime value of a Gen Z consumer?” she added. “And Alpha is the first generation projected to live until 100 years old.”

Sarathy explained that marketers are beginning to understand and quantify the impact of failing to act in business losses.

“They realize that these are their consumers, so they're starting to make the case [that] ‘We need to do this, because if we don't, we’re leaving money on the table.’

“Marketers have to understand that they need to get this right,” she added. “The next generation has no patience for this, and they are not going to wait [for brands to figure it out].”

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