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Gender Stereotypes In Advertising: Where the Hell Are the Midlife Women?

Advertisers continue to pigeon-hole the over-40 woman (or ignore them completely)—but don't lose faith just yet.

Ever notice how women our age are portrayed in ads?

Trick question! It’s hard to find images of cool, fun, and funny females over 45 in the media these days.

That issue is exactly why Fancy, a female-focused creative agency in New York, took action. To see why midlife women are so often MIA in ads, it surveyed 500 women age 40 and over across the US.

80 percent of women our age feel that brands underestimate our intellect.

The agency had a hunch that “despite changing life experiences and attitudes, marketers continue to pigeon-hole [the over-40 woman] into spaces that grow more and more inaccurate by the day, missing the mark.” And the survey results backed up that theory.

Eighty percent of respondents feel that brands underestimate our intellect, 76 percent feel brands play a negative role in the perception of women over 40, and 64 percent underestimate our own spending power. And a majority feel straight-up stereotyped by advertisers. One survey-taker said,  “Too many brands ignore this age group or are solely focused on selling us incontinence products, medication, or things to make us look younger/thinner.”

Gender Stereotypes in Advertising: Reasons to be Optimistic

‘Too many brands are solely focused on selling us incontinence products and medication.’

On a more optimistic note, nine out of 10 respondents say advertisers should play a positive role in debunking gender stereotypes. Our self-esteem is riding high, as expressed in statements like, “I feel stronger, smarter, more attractive, and… I have so much wisdom and experience (than when younger).” We’re looking for at least a little respect!

To bridge this gap, Fancy recommends that brands step up and show lots of positive images of 40 plus women in their ads, showing them often, portraying them in a supportive way, and embracing their varied identities. Hey, some of us are students, some of us are entrepreneurs, and some of us are retirees. Some are moms of kindergartners, and some are grandmas! Let’s hope advertisers listen. To learn more about the survey, click here.

By Janet Siroto


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