Joint research delves into the mental strain COVID has had on women, as well as consumers’ perceptions on how women are represented in media

NEW YORK (October 20201)–Today, global target audience insights company GWI in partnership with SeeHer, the leading global movement for increasing authentic portrayals of women and girls in advertising and media, released the findings of a bespoke report that examines the pandemic’s impact on women. The research explores the mental health impact on particular groups like moms and women of color, as well as the role that men play in this dynamic – both in terms of allyship and diverging perceptions. The report also offers insights into how brands and media can support women more effectively through their representation.

Key findings from the report include:

Mental Strain – Women vs. Men:

The pandemic has exposed the longstanding and delicate balancing act that women have maintained for years. From caring for families and partners to juggling careers, education, and finances women have been contending with increasing demands and fewer resources. As a result, women today are caught in a “Fragile (Im)balance” that any major crisis can easily upset.

  • Women in the US are 50 percent more likely than men to say their mental health has declined in the past year, and more than 30 percent of these women believe that the pandemic will have long-lasting effects on their mental health.
  • Household shopping for parents falls mainly to women: 76 percent of women report having this as a main responsibility, versus 63 percent of men.
  • One percent of U.S. men report being stay-at-home parents versus eight percent of women, reinforcing the impression of women as primary caregivers.

Representations in Media:

The media landscape has been inundated with sympathetic messaging around COVID-19; support for healthcare workers, families reuniting, and long-time friends catching up on Zoom calls. However, little has been created to specifically visualize the high-stress balancing act that is daily life for many women, immersed in addressing the needs of their families and their jobs. Even less has been done to normalize and encourage self-care for women, yet women’s experience with this mental burden directly influences the sorts of images and narratives to which they are most receptive.

  • Close to half of U.S. women surveyed want to see ads that show women finding ways to relax and care for themselves (47%).
  • There is a key difference in what is important in terms of media reflecting gender parity between men and women, and fathers and mothers; for example, men primarily want to see women portrayed as successful in their jobs (45%), a finding even more pronounced for fathers (50%). This contrasts with women’s preferences, which tend toward a desire to see women taking care of themselves and getting support at home from their partners.

Brands Leading with Purpose:

Since the onset of the pandemic, global consumers, and especially in the US, are expressing an increased desire to engage with brands that align with their values and show a clear commitment to diversity, inclusion, and community. This trend heavily impacts consumer spending habits as well as brand loyalty and expectations of the media.

  • 50 percent of consumers report that when brands show support in times of crisis, it impacts their purchasing decisions (women: 45%, men: 50%).
  • 2 out of 3 people agree that media (women: 64%; men: 66%) and brands (women: 60%; men: 59%) can shape how women see themselves during times of crisis.
  • Nearly half of fathers surveyed believe that the media has “a lot” of responsibility in addressing gender equality.

“As we emerge from this pandemic, it is evident that brands and the media will have to prioritize narratives that authentically and accurately represent the lived experiences of women, particularly in times of crisis and stress,” said SeeHer, ANA (Association of National Advertisers) Executive Vice President, Analytics, Insights and Measurement Latha Sarathy. “Given the clear responsibility consumers believe brands have in addressing gender equality in media, now is the perfect opportunity for brands to reassess the messages they’re putting into market.”

“In a year and a half of unprecedented change, getting direct, timely insights from impacted individuals has been critical for brands to respond to their customers’ top concerns,” GWI Chief Customer Officer and U.S. General Manager Carrie Seifer. “We’re proud to partner with SeeHer on such an important topic.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

Media can request the report by emailing

About GWI

GWI (formerly GlobalWebIndex) is the leading supplier of target audience insight to the global marketing industry. Trusted by the world’s biggest brands, media organizations and agencies on the daily to get closer to their audiences, the company’s flagship survey represents over 2 billion people globally. Using the subscription-based platform, clients like Twitter, Google, Spotify, WPP, IPG and Omnicom Group can gather in-depth insights into behaviors, attitudes and interests in seconds through a combination of survey data and analytics.

Among a range of leading data products available alongside its flagship survey are:

  • GWI USA is a deep dive into the habits, behaviors and attitudes of 240m internet users in the USA.
  • GWI Gaming delves into the actions and attitudes of gamers across 15 markets.
  • GWI Sports investigates sports fandom and participation across 15 markets.
  • GWI Kids gets to the heart of how kids actually think, so you can be sure to kid-proof your ideas and concepts from here on.
  • GWI Work gives a detailed view of the lives of business professionals across 10 markets.
  • GWI Zeitgeist, included with our core survey, is fielded monthly and zeroes in on the stuff that matters. It’s topical, timely, and relevant.

Those looking for even more bespoke research solutions can enrich GWI data with a range of services like hyper-targeted custom surveys, brand trackers, and recontact studies.

About SeeHer

Despite strides made in recent years to accurately portray women and girls in media, unconscious bias persists throughout advertising and entertainment. The average age, race, body type, and other aspects of women depicted in media today still represents only a small fraction of the female population. SeeHer is a collective of marketers, media influencers and industry influencers committed to creating advertising and supporting content that portrays women and girls as they really are. Led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), in partnership with The Female Quotient (The FQ), the movement launched in June 2016 in Washington, DC at the United State of Women. To help marketers benchmark success, the group developed Gender Equality Measure® (GEM®), the first research methodology that quantifies gender bias in ads and programming. GEM® shows that content portraying females accurately dramatically increases both purchase intent and brand reputation. In 2017 GEM® won the prestigious ESOMAR Research Effectiveness Award. The methodology quickly became the industry standard, which led to a global rollout in 2018. In 2019, the movement expanded into new verticals: sports (SeeHer In Sports) and music (SeeHer Hear Her). Visit and follow us @SeeHer on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and on LinkedIn.


Kathy Allen