Donald Trump's elevation to US President sparked immediate grassroots movements and marches across the globe, putting women’s rights and gender equality back in the spotlight. As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, it is important to ensure that all women are represented as equal, no matter what their origin: black, Asian or minority ethnic. At The Huffington Post UK, we are focusing around women in March, with a special emphasis on the BAME female community, as we want to ensure a diverse range of voices are heard.
BAME individuals make up about 14% of the UK population. Between 2001 to 2009, the figure rose from 6.6 million to 9.1 million. By 2051, that will have risen to 1 in 5, representing a huge amount of spending potential.
What does this mean for advertising and speaking to a diverse mix of audiences?
While there has been progress, the advertising and media landscape still has some way to go when it comes to representing BAME women as standard. Models from different ethnic backgrounds are still vastly outnumbered and we are still seeing publishers limit diversity on their covers or homepages.
Brands are increasingly championing the BAME community and we are seeing less beauty whitewashing or stereotyping cultures, but we need to see a bigger increase. As a community we remain underserved. Advertisers and media owners are missing out financially. Why is representation in these markets so important? Because women who see representations of themselves are more likely to buy that brand.
Some brands that have come a long way include beauty giants such as Dove and No7. Dove, for example, champions Real Beauty, as does No7, whose Ta Dah! spots incorporate women from a mixture of ethnic backgrounds. Each of these brands aim to empower women through #femvertising, ensuring all the while that the BAME community are represented.
Sport is another area where there is a huge appetite. Sports England’s latest "This girl can" TV ad, is a fantastic example of a campaign highlighting women from all backgrounds without stereotyping. Nike has also long championed diversity and portraying strong female role models, with ambassadors including Serena Williams and FKA twigs. The brand has also seen the global opportunity and targeted women from around the world, taking a local and genuine approach that inspires the next generation to be confident, active and truly healthy.
These brands have realised they need to appeal to all women. If you break down one community from the other, back in 2001, it was estimated that the disposable income of the Asian community alone was valued at £12 billion. Putting aside the questions of whether advertisers should be targeting the BAME community out of some altruistic obligation, it makes financial sense.
The IPA has set a goal that by 2020, 15% of people in leadership positions in the IPA’s biggest agencies will be from a non-white background. Making adland more diverse in terms of background, skill set and experience, will hopefully go some way to making a difference. No longer does beauty whitewashing and cultural clichés appeal to the masses. We, as consumers, are becoming more culturally diverse. Brands will want to appeal to wider audiences and won’t put ad dollars behind one dimensional campaigns. Where’s the ROI in a divisive advert that excludes whole communities of consumers?
In 2017, not only do publishers and agencies need to feel a responsibility to think more diversely, but we all need to be increasingly aware that we’ll be at a disadvantage if we are not speaking to all communities. I look forward to discussing this topic on our HuffPost UK panel at Advertising Week Europe later this month.
Poorna Bell is the executive editor of The Huffington Post UK and global lifestyle editor