Advertising has a less-than-stellar record when it comes to portrayals of both genders. While much has changed, there is still work to be done. One of the industry's most prestigious award shows will be encouraging progress.
On Monday, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity announced the launch of a new award, the Glass Lion, which will be presented for the first time in June.
The award will be given for "work that challenges gender bias and shatters stereotypical images of men and women which remain rooted in marketing messages," according to a statement from the festival.
The idea for the award came from Facebook chief operating officer and LeanIn.org founder Sheryl Sandberg, who encouraged the festival to address misrepresentations of gender in advertising.
Advertising is part of a larger media landscape that can help to shape cultural attitudes. But it also responds to the culture in which it exists: changing consumer attitudes toward rights for same-sex couples, for example, have led some marketers to include more diverse portrayals of couples and families in their commercials.
Gender stereotypes persist, however. Last year, the Cannes festival launched an initiative designed to address a paucity of women in leadership roles in creative departments in advertising.
"To date, a predominantly male voice has informed the creation of a lot of the marketing messaging," Senta Slingerland, the festival's director of brand strategy, said in a statement. "Applying creativity to capture the hearts and minds of the largest consumer base in the world – women – will inform the financial future of this industry. This will require a more gender-balanced talent pool."
The new award will evolve over time to address other issues as well.
Former advertising executive and founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, Cindy Gallop, will serve as president of the award jury.