An Update on Female Empowerment in Advertising

Confident woman silhouette from behind, raising her fist, walking into the sunset.

In recent years, messages of female empowerment have found a greater presence in popular culture. Some feel this topic may have reached its peak, but feminism is not a trend. It’s just that lately, many issues that affect women every day are prevalent in the news, lending increased awareness to female empowerment in politics, the workplace, home, health, education, and more. In addition to increased visibility, messages of female empowerment are also becoming more present on social media, in entertainment, and the advertising space.

Many companies have sought to appeal to women through the use of empowerment messaging but are sometimes hesitant to do so because of the topical or political ramifications that could ensue. We conducted research not too long ago to find out how women in different age groups perceive female empowerment, what messaging resonates best, and what brands would be most likely to reach women by utilizing messages of women’s empowerment. Additionally, J Walter Thompson (JWT), an advertising agency, recently conducted a survey of 8,000 women that shows brands need to continue to leverage messages of empowerment to women.

Insights on Female Empowerment

The research conducted by JWT states that 76% of women, globally, felt there had never been a better time to be a woman and 62% said they were proud to be a feminist. Thus, female empowerment is still highly relevant in today’s society and it isn’t going away any time soon.

For brands looking to display more empowerment to women, our research shows that ultimately, no matter the age, women feel most empowered when they see women who are similar to them and easy to relate to. Characteristics like intelligence, success, and kindness are just a few examples that make women feel empowered. While a variety of celebrities do come to mind when thinking of empowering women, respondents also enjoy empowering role models like themselves (mothers, wives, workers, etc.).

Women’s empowerment is most easily applied to beauty and athletic brands. There are a variety of cosmetic brands that have been using empowerment in messaging for some time, similar to athletic brands, so it makes sense that women feel brands of this nature would best represent female empowerment messaging. These two industries also seem like obvious choices for female empowerment since they exist to allow women to take charge of their bodies and looks.

Generational differences emerge when women are asked about sources and messaging of empowerment. While teens, Millennials, and Generation X find some common examples in empowering advertising, the sources vary. For example, Millennial and Gen X women are more likely to find empowerment in nurturing roles, while teens find it more frequently through personal accomplishments. The future of female empowerment is also positive as the impact reaches more ages and locations.

The Future Is Female

Many publications and media outlets have recognized the future is female and female empowerment is just getting started—especially as the political climate tends to fuel the fire. While first world countries have been used to seeing more messages of empowerment for the past few years, women—particularly young girls—in less developed countries are just now seeing the impact. Brands with an international business model will be able to extend their communications of empowerment beyond the US to women in countries like Afghanistan and Zimbabwe. What’s more, older women aren’t missing out on their chance to feel empowered either—just look at the glamorous grandmas of instagram.

Also reported by JWT, 45% of women still feel they’ve been held back professionally as women. While women are feeling more empowered, advertisers are going to have to do more to insight action and really show how they’re making progress, particularly when it comes to the woman’s role in the workplace. Brands that can appeal to women’s desire to make a difference in their professional lives will be the brands of the next wave of female empowerment.

To learn more about how brands can incorporate women’s empowerment messaging in their advertising, download the full report below.

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