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Survey of filmmakers reveals rampant sexism in ad industry

Sexism is rampant in the advertising industry, according to research among filmmakers which revealed a workplace still heavily skewed towards men and women struggling for equality.

The study by video creation platform The Smalls painted a sorry picture where women are often ignored, underpaid and confronted by sexist attitudes.

A poll of filmmakers in Asia, Australia and Europe found 76% of male and 87% of female directors believe the ad industry is sexist, with more than seven out of 10 women saying they have experienced sexism first hand.

Almost 80% of women believe they have been adversely impacted by a gender pay gap while 60% say being a woman has hampered their career in the industry.

While individuals are directly impacted by sexism, the wider industry is also suffering, the survey of 102 filmmakers found.

The Smalls cited research from workplace diversity champion Creative Equals which claims 93% of ads are created by men, while only 12% of creative directors in London are female.

In the poll, 71% of film directors questioned – both men and women – think the lack of women is having a negative impact on the creative work in advertising.

The sexism in the industry is mirrored in the ads themselves with Unilever suggesting just 1% of commercials depict woman in comic roles, while research from JWT and the Geena Davis Institute found women are 48% more likely to be found in the kitchen, given four times less screen time than men and are seven times less likely to have a speaking role.

“There is no lack of talented female writers, directors and producers to give women a voice but is the industry ready to listen?” The Smalls chief executive and co-founder Kate Tancred asked. “Looking at the results of our survey, it certainly doesn’t look that way, with the majority of female filmmakers thinking the odds are still stacked against them.”

The video creation platform held its conference last week with a “50:50” theme designed to push diversity in the advertising and creative workplace.

Such a balance is “essential” if advertising is to “stay relevant to the next generation of women”, Tancred said.

“If nothing else, upping the amount of female talent in production will ensure we have more authentic and genuine conversations with women through advertising,” she added.

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