Why the ad industry needs to urgently address the gender imbalance in production

Why the ad industry needs to urgently address the gender imbalance in production

The widespread backlash against Samsung’s running advert in April clearly reflects an altered landscape in advertising.

However, what was undeniably shocking is that this ad was ever allowed to be made. 

How could the ill thought-out concept of the campaign, both so incredibly unrealistic and insensitive, have made it through creative, production and direction? 

One thing was very clear; we can only assume that the single female involved in making this ad - and the one who wasn’t involved in the conception - was the main character.

I recently led on a digital media campaign at Contented with our client Bupa UK called #PowerfulRealStories, in support of women’s mental health, encouraging people to share their real stories and ‘unfilter’ their lives. 

This new campaign was produced entirely by and with women. Why should I be flagging this specifically? Why is this approach unique, newsworthy?


The now ubiquitously understood viral hashtag #MeToo launched way back in October 2016, and in May 2018 Harvey Weinstein was arrested and charged—both seminal dates that collectively should have created instrumental changes in the global film and creative industries. 

The Celluloid Ceiling Report, however, reveals this didn’t have the impact it should have done, with depressing recent stats including women making up only 12% of directors working on the 100 top-grossing films in 2021—an actual decrease from 16% in 2020.

Further research reveals that women make up 24 per cent of directors on co-productions with other countries, but just 11 per cent on domestic UK films (U/k stats). A quarter of the 203 British films in production in 2015 had no women in any of the six key production roles (director, writer, producer, executive producer, cinematographer, and editor).

Whilst it is glaringly obvious that the entire entertainment industry is challenged by the lack of female representation in every part of the production process, what isn’t clear is how this is being allowed to continue. 

Why are girls/women not seeing these roles as viable career options, or what is stopping them from succeeding when they do?

Arguably, it is history, their peers and the industry ‘expectations’. Unless the industry puts this problem firmly on the agenda - from education, through to recruitment, through to the workplace - then little can change.

As an executive producer, and an active member of the female industry network Bloom for women in advertising, my team and I are passionate about proactively challenging these issues. 

As an industry it is frustrating, and quite frankly depressing, that the need to address the gender imbalance behind the camera is still so urgent.

As a female working in this industry, I feel it’s my responsibility to change and readdress why the gender imbalance behind the camera is so urgent. 

It cannot be possible for women in the industry to feel secure and free in front of the camera, until women are fairly represented behind the camera.

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