Yesterday was International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month. During this time we celebrate women’s achievements, we raise awareness about discrimination, and we take action to drive gender parity. Or, if you’re on social media, you post lots of pictures of women because that’s going to create so much equality, right?
Forgive me for being cynical about having special days and special months. What are we supposed to do on other days and other months? Some of my best friends are women, and they don’t have the answers either. Misogyny is everywhere, and the people who need to hear the message of equality don’t pay attention because they believe nothing’s wrong.
Six years of federal complaints, three years of litigation and decades of domination of the women’s soccer circuit finally paid off, as the U.S. Women’s National Team finally got its long-awaited victory: equal pay. To refresh your memory: American women received a $110,000 bonus for winning the 2019 World Cup; the U.S. men would have received $407,000 had they won in 2018.
Women have long been paid less than men. In 2022, women earned 82 cents for every $1 men earn when comparing all women to all men, according to data from the software firm Payscale. For women of color, the gap is even larger.
MY OWN INDUSTRY
But what about my own line of work? I’m sad to say that sexism is alive and well, and pretty much anyone in the entertainment industry is keeping it alive. This includes voice actors, by the way.
One of the highest paid actresses in the world, Jennifer Lawrence, is still paid millions of dollars less than her male co-stars. According to 2017 research, women earn about $1.1 million less than male actors, and women over fifty earn $4 million less.
Let’s talk about voice actors.
One of our roles as voice overs, is the role of an ENABLER. Our voluntary cooperation in creating messages that influence people, keeps old stereotypes alive, and shows viewers and listeners how to approach things like gender.
Take commercials, for instance. Did you know that women only make an appearance in one out of ten adverts, even though they make three-quarters of all consumer purchases? This statistic comes from Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts, the authors of Brandsplaining: Why Marketing is (Still) Sexist.
Jane and Philippa spent over 12 years researching the extent of sexism in advertising. Even adverts that seem to be all about empowering women (like women should be more confident and independent) are an example of “sneaky sexism.”
The authors say that the hidden message implies that women still need to improve or do more to succeed because they are not good enough.
Tim Parkin is a global brand marketing expert, author, and speaker. Parkin believes that by the time a girl reaches her 17th birthday, she has seen a quarter of a million adverts, and the majority feature negative gender stereotypes.
Parkin says: “These adverts affect girls self-image. It affects how they perceive their place in the world, the career they think they can go into, and their interpersonal relationships.”
If you think we’ve made some good progress in the past decades, why are baby food ads still voiced by women, and why do car commercials usually feature male voices? Why do laundry detergent ads mainly feature women, and why do male actors demonstrate lawn equipment? Why do only 4 percent of ads show women in leadership positions (according to media consultancy Ebiquity)?
Could it have something to with the fact that over seventy percent of creative directors are men?
Of course I’ll get comments from female colleagues telling me they have voiced a car commercial, but as far as I’m concerned, exceptions prove the rule.
If we’re truly serious about equality, voice actors should examine their role in keeping old stereotypes alive. Perhaps we should start refusing jobs that reinforce typecasting and reek of sexism.
Remember: Change starts with you!