Three Tips to Help SMBs Combat Gender Bias Beyond International Women’s Day

 In Best Practices

512890442, Pixdeluxe

On the heels of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, iStock has released the latest Visual GPS research revealing that two out of every three women globally (66%) are still experiencing bias, with the top reason being due to their body shape and size (26%). The findings indicate that women are experiencing bias due to being too heavy (46%), too curvy (21%), too skinny (18%), and too shapeless (13%).

Although stereotypes are often intrinsically linked to real-world discrimination which women still experience, our research also reveals that there has been a slight shift in how biases are perceived because of recent efforts by brands and companies to feature more diverse body shapes in their advertising campaigns. Visual GPS research found that there has been a 7% drop in people experiencing any form of body bias in 2021, when compared to 2020 figures.

While there has been a move in the right direction when it comes to gender representation, despite best efforts, there is still work to be done to break the bias in visual storytelling. Our Visual GPS research demonstrates that the images and videos businesses choose in their visual storytelling matters because it directly affects the way female consumers perceive and engage with businesses.

Below, iStock reveals three key tips to help businesses select inclusive visuals this International Women’s Day and beyond:

Represent Larger Body Types in an Authentic Way

Woman smiling in a kitchen while looking at her laptop.

1333405308, JLco – Julia Amaral

Customers are drawn to images of people with a range of body types that have typically been underrepresented. Women are most often depicted as slim in visual storytelling, and according to Visual GPS data, less than 1% of visuals include women with larger body types. When choosing imagery, videos, and illustrations for your marketing campaigns, consider highlighting heavier and curvier women, especially as women are shown in advertising twice as much as men.

Be Body Positive

A woman smiling while carrying two bags of foliage.

1324242582, Solstock

Understanding audiences, particularly heavier and curvier women who are underrepresented in visual storytelling, means that you see them and understand what makes them unique. This also gives you the chance to showcase how your brand can fill their specific needs. We have seen a 16% growth in the quantity of content that is tagged as “body positive” in the last five years alone. By tackling the portrayal of stereotypes when it comes to women and body image, you will be part of driving change and making women feel more accepted, and thus engaged with your brand.

Include Women From All Backgrounds

A woman smiling as she works in a garden.

1243258481, Solstock

The ways in which women are portrayed in popular visuals and advertising can often perpetuate a range of stereotypes, not just in terms of body image. Visual GPS research suggests that body bias has the greatest intersection with other biases, and there is a strong correlation between biases related to body image and socio-economic status. Businesses should also consider featuring visuals that include women of all ages and ethnicities, as well as body types, with the aim of connecting with female consumers in a transparent and honest way.

To find inclusive imagery and videos, visit

Was this article helpful?
Share this article
Get the latest tips from iStock
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
More Resources for You