We’ve all seen the adverts. The mother is portrayed as the homemaker, looking after the children. The father is in the office, and heads home to find dinner being served on the table.

It’s a common stereotype in advertising, not just in the region but across the globe.

Increasingly, there’s a public pushback on ads that reinforce gender stereotypes, which is forcing regulators to review guidelines around what is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to the portrayal of any form of discrimination. The UK has become the latest country to adopt guidelines that spell out what ads are allowed, and what will be pulled.

“Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us,” Guy Parker, chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, said in a statement this June. “Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential. It’s in the interests of women and men, our economy and society that advertisers steer clear of these outdated portrayals.”

Resonates with all

Many of us in the advertising industry agree with Guy Parker. We understand the role that advertising can play in either reinforcing gender stereotypes, or in inspiring people through portraying real life.

The Advertising Business Group set out this year to better understand the state of the advertising industry in the region. We partnered with Zayed University to look at three areas.

* The first was to review advertising for a defined period, to better understand how men and women were being portrayed and in what context.

* The second was to test the response of national consumers to both progressive and traditional gender roles in advertising.

* The third was to comprehend if or how gender stereotyping is occurring online, through digital advertising.

We’ll be revealing the full findings of this research next week to our members and the wider advertising industry at our end of year event on November 26. As a body that wants to promote transparency and trust in advertising across the region, we’ve also taken it upon ourselves to produce a voluntary code that’ll help brands, agencies and publishers better understand how we can create advertising that stops perpetuating gender-based myths.

Sign up for change

There are great examples where the advertising industry has led the way in displaying images of men and women that are bold and inspiring, including in our own region. When we are at our best, our adverts spark debate and can be a catalyst for positive change.

But, as the research by Zayed University shows, there are still too many images in our advertising that reflect outdated ideas about the role of men and women. There are still too many adverts which do not show the modern world as it is — let alone as it should be.

As advertisers, we have a responsibility to address and fight stereotypes. I hope every brand, agency and publisher in this region will join with the ABG to discuss what we all can do, both individually and collectively, to transform our industry into one which promotes advertising as a force for good, including on the issue of gender.

Alex Malouf is Board Member of Advertising Business Group.