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WPP and SeeHer Release ‘Health On Her Terms’ -- New Research Reveals Significant Gaps and Continued Gender Bias in Marketing, Advertising and Media Portraying Women and their Health

By: via Business Wire

Nearly half of women believe that media and advertising shy away from women’s health issues

45% of all BIWOC (Black, Indigenous, Women of Color) want to see more representation of race/ethnicity in health communications

Women are not seeking out information about their reproductive health from healthcare professionals, media or peers due to enduring taboos (less than 25%)

52% of women report miscarriages as not portrayed or portrayed negatively and 53% share that periods are not represented in marketing and advertising

Less than 50% of women, specifically moms, feel that mental health is well represented, and that number goes down among Gen Z women and non-binary women

52% of women say depictions of weight are unrealistic

WPP (NYSE: WPP) has partnered with SeeHer, the leading global movement to accurately portray women in marketing, advertising, media and entertainment, to unveil “Health On Her Terms (HOHT).” Released today, the new research study reveals critical gaps and opportunities focused on women and people who identify as women across reproductive care, weight diversity and mental health.

Women handle more than 80% of healthcare spending decisions in the U.S., and they make up 65% of the workforce in the healthcare industry.[1] Yet for all the progress made in gender equality over the years, there are serious disparities and issues in the way women’s health is portrayed in media, and women and other marginalized genders are not framed as a primary audience in health marketing. Women say that they’re likely to be loyal to brands who tackle entrenched and pervasive taboos in media—and speak to them authentically and with dignity.

Lindsay Pattison, Chief Client Officer of WPP, said: “Advertisers tend to flatten womanhood and our health needs into a demographic box. But women's health is far more dynamic and nuanced than how it’s currently presented in the media. Our industry has a responsibility to transform how women are portrayed and provide more multifaceted representation and prioritize showing women’s mental health more authentically, weight more realistically and reproductive health more inclusively.”

Cassandra Sinclair, President, Grey Health and Wellness, said: “This groundbreaking study shows that we as marketers in health and wellness must do a better job listening to the needs of women and connecting with them on their terms and their personal health needs. Women want brands to be vulnerable, brave, and real. They want brands to understand that their health is personal and connecting with them must be more inclusive of the realities of their lives.”

Rachel Lowenstein, Global Head of Inclusive Innovation, Mindshare, said: “The state of women’s health and bodily autonomy, including healthcare for trans and non-binary communities, is in a tenuous place. Media and communications play a significant role in the pervasive taboos on topics like reproductive care, mental health, and more. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Brands have an opportunity to affect change and give women and marginalized genders the more nuanced, diverse, honest representation that they deserve. In doing so, they can earn this audience’s loyalty while driving positive change in the world around us.”

Christine Guilfoyle, Executive Vice President, SeeHer, Association of National Advertisers, said: “We’re so proud to partner with WPP on this important study. The insight clearly demonstrates that consumers want content reflecting women in their multiplicity, with diverse needs and experiences, rather than monolithic storytelling. When it comes to depictions of women's health and wellness, there is much work to be done. With this study, we are launching a new vertical, SeeHer Health, to accurately represent women's health and wellness-related issues across marketing, media, and entertainment.”

WPP agencies Grey and Mindshare partnered to uncover and analyze prevalent themes on the reality of women’s health in today’s environment, how women’s health is being depicted in media today, and how brands can modify efforts to better represent and transform the support of her health needs. Top themes that emerged include:

  • Dynamism of Womanhood: The media positions women’s experiences of health in a singular fashion. The way in which brands currently connect with women is at odds with the way in which women self-identify. A total of 44% of BIWOC want to see more diverse representations of race/ethnicity in health communications, as the media places a strong emphasis on womanhood as young, white, cishet, and non-disabled.
  • End of Exceptionalism: Research found women are rarely marketed just as they are, with brands instead prioritizing women doing extraordinary things. Marketing efforts need to expand to focus on a broader, more diverse segment of women and decrease focus on this phenomenon of exceptionalism to drive inclusion.
  • Go Beyond Women Seen Solely as Caregivers: Women are still seen primarily in the context of their ability to care for others and expressed the need to be seen for her whole self. Her self-worth needs to be seen as more than caring for others.

WPP and SeeHer have also put together “The Marketer’s Hippocratic Oath to Women,” based upon one of the oldest binding oaths in history, still held sacred by physicians today. Supporting each of the three themes, the “Marketer’s Hippocratic Oath to Women” states “to not only do no harm but to drive real change” and create better outcomes for women themselves, as well as their businesses.

WPP and SeeHer pursued this research to encourage brands and organizations to break down historical barriers and invest further thinking, insights and resources to ensure women’s true perspectives and needs are accurately translated into strategies to drive better health outcomes for women. For marketers interested in learning more about the takeaways and next steps for brands, please visit this link for more information.

Research Methodology:

The team designed and fielded a custom online survey to 1,545 women and non-binary people ages 18+ across the U.S., leveraging the Audience Origin platform run by Kantar Profiles Health. The audience was inclusive of race, gender, sexuality, income, age, and disabilities.

About WPP

WPP is the creative transformation company. We use the power of creativity to build better futures for our people, planet, clients and communities. For more information, visit www.wpp.com.

About SeeHer

SeeHer is the leading global movement of media, marketing and entertainment leaders committed to the accurate depiction of women and girls in advertising and media. While strides have been made in recent years to authentically portray women and girls, unconscious bias persists throughout advertising and entertainment. The average age, race, and body type, among other characteristics, of women shown in media still represent only a small fraction of the female population. The SeeHer movement was launched by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in partnership with The Female Quotient (The FQ) in 2016. To help marketers benchmark success, SeeHer spearheaded the development of the Gender Equality Measure® (GEM®), the first research methodology that quantifies gender bias in ads and programming. GEM® shows that content accurately portraying females dramatically increases both purchase intent and brand reputation. Once complete, the GEM® methodology quickly became the industry standard, winning the prestigious ESOMAR Research Effectiveness Award in 2017 and leading to its global rollout in 2018. Since 2019, the movement has expanded its verticals to include sports (SeeHer In Sports) and music (SeeHer Hear Her).

To learn more, visit SeeHer.com and follow SeeHer on social media @SeeHer (Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn) and @SeeHerOfficial (TikTok and Twitter).

[1] Source: Oliver Wyman, “Women in Healthcare Leadership 2019”

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