At the Geena Davis Institute, we recognize the influential role of advertising and media in shaping gender norms. This understanding drives our commitment to analyzing the portrayal of women and girls in advertisements. Through our joint research with UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, UNICEF Programme Division in New York, and UNICEF India, we delved into gender representation within the 1,000 most-watched Indian ads on TV and YouTube for the year 2019, with a focus on identifying gender stereotypes.

Key Findings

  • Female characters comprised 49.6% of all characters, while male characters comprised 50.4%. However, female characters made up the majority of screen time (59.7%), compared with male characters (56.3%).   
  • Female characters were constricted in that they were four times as likely as male characters to have a small body type, nine times more likely to be shown as “stunning,” six times more likely to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, four times more likely to be depicted as partially nude, and five times more likely to be sexually objectified.  
  • The most common gender tropes or stereotypes for female characters were “The Subservient Wife” and the “Pushy Aunt,” whereas for men it was the “Domineering/Controlling Male.”
  • Compared with female characters, male characters were twice as likely to be shown with a paid occupation, to be shown actually working, to be shown as leaders, and making decisions about their future.
  • Compared with female characters, male characters were more likely to be shown as smart and nearly twice as likely to be shown as funny.
  • Compared with male characters, female characters were more likely to be depicted as married, shown making household decisions, and shown as a caregiver.

Strategic Recommendations for Gender Equity in Advertising

For Advertising Governing Bodies

  • Implement guidelines for equitable gender representation in ads.Set benchmarks for positive gender norms in leadership roles and body representation.
  • Introduce caste/class representation benchmarks to enhance diversity.

For Advertisers and Content Creators:

  • Balance gender representation by casting girls and women as often as boys and men.
  • Eliminate sexual objectification in advertisements.
  • Portray more women in leadership, and as both intelligent and humorous.
  • Diversify roles, showing women in public spheres and men in domestic settings.
  • Promote ads that reflect positive and equitable gender norms.