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Gender bias in advertising: Are only men to be blamed?

Gender bias in the work place is by no means a new issue.

Women are used as sexual objects to sell burgers, are discriminated against in job postings (that’s even before we reach the interview) and are often paid less than men even in the glam world of Hollywood.

Read also: What do you think about #WomenNotObjects? [VIDEO]

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the gender pay gap shows a generational sliding scale, with females between 55-65 with the largest disparity (18%) and females between the ages of 25-35 with the smallest disparity (6%). Closer to home in Singapore, women are still not paid the same as their male counterparts for the same job.

The 2014 Labour Force Statistics show that women earn less than men in all occupational categories except clerical and support. In most categories, the differential is more than 10%. Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen the on-going story about the JWT CEO who made racist and sexist comments which led to his resignation and impending lawsuit.

It’s 2016 and we are still facing gender bias and discrimination augmented by sexist stereotyping. While this is a pervasive issue our industry, women also need to look within and ask ourselves, hand to heart: Is it just the men? Don’t women discriminate and stereotype one another?

And now before you scream blue murder, pause, reflect and think of occasions where you have faced a sexist bias by a fellow woman.

  • The ‘You have a baby and you work’ bias
  • The ‘You gave up your career for your baby’ bias
  • The ‘You may be successful at work but if you can’t keep your husband happy, then your success is pointless’ bias
  • The ‘domestic bliss’ bias

Let’s move to stereotypes:

  • The 50-year old spinster = frustrated
  • The 20-year old attractive and friendly girl = flirty
  • The D cup size who is not shy of her assets = slutty
  • The mid-30s divorcee = desperate
  • The 40-something mother = matronly
  • The short-haired, tattooed female = lesbian
  • The gung-ho, authoritative boss = dragon lady

Can we honestly say that it’s only men who view women with the above biases? Or that they are the only ones guilty of this kind of stereotyping?Can’t women do a lot more to stand together and fight such prejudices?

We already have enough men who try to box us in neat little labelled packages. It’s high time we help each other open these boxes and let our true selves out.

Unfortunately, women have to make hard choices during our careers. It’s never easy to give equal emphasis to both work and home. Compromises have to be made, and we are often judged by our male colleagues and bosses. That’s the time we need to stand firm by our choices and bear the burden of the consequences. And when we are doing so, it’s encouraging to have our female colleagues stand by our side to offer support or words of advice- both of which go a long way.

I have been exceedingly fortunate to have the most encouraging, motivating and intelligent female bosses. They are one of the reasons I am in this position in my career today. I have always tried to offer the same sense of encouragement and backing to my female peers and juniors.

We need to rally around each other and come together to fight the unfairness which is rampant in our industry. Gender bias is not restricted to one gender. Our war against gender bias and sexist stereotyping should not be just against men, it should be against any person – man or woman- who tries to put us down by using our gender. And it starts with each one of us.

The article is written by Seema Punwani, principal consultant at R3.

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