Mar 1, 2022
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Ahead of International Women’s Day, iStock, a leading ecommerce platform providing premium visual content to SMBs, SMEs, creatives and students everywhere, has released 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 are reported within research for iStock’s creative insights platform Visual GPS, and indicates 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, the latest Visual GPS 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 we have seen 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,” said Dr. Rebecca Swift, Global Head of Creative Insights at iStock. “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 your business.”

“There is more we can do to change the perception of heavier and curvier women. Choosing images and videos that are diverse in the depiction of women connects with a wider audience and provides an opportunity to reinforce your commitment to potential consumers.”

Below, Dr. Rebecca Swift 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: 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: 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: 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 video, visit:
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