The increasing awareness around female empowerment is gathering momentum worldwide. As leadership figures like Sheryl Sandberg and her LeanIn.org foundation encourage women to help each other to find and amplify their voices, it implies the need for a new set of images to reflect this pioneering mood.

Roles and responsibilities are being reversed and we see women fully embracing family life and work in the digital age. For many, this leads to a realization of their inner strength but more importantly about being open and honest about the challenges to inspire each other.

Tapping into this sentiment with a new visual language will diminish remaining stereotypes that keep women from taking leadership roles and result in exciting new marketing opportunities.

What constitutes today’s woman is her natural demeanor and sense of self, through which she masters her demanding roles as working professional or mother. This is also reflected in the need for progressive imagery as antiquated beauty ideals make way for the desire to see the ‘real woman’ who evokes a sense of closeness and familiarity.

When photographer Chuck Close shot Hollywood stars such as Oprah Winfrey or Julia Roberts for Vanity Fair without the usual efforts of make-up and styling, A-list fashion blogger Garance Doré remarked “Why do I (…) feel like I’m seeing Julia Roberts (age 46) for the very first time?”

What can be expected over the next years to come are more female role models paving the way for a heightened sense of unity and collaboration as defined by female qualities?

 

Pantene

Pantene sets an important milestone by highlighting the double standards depicting the roles of men and women in their work environment. The campaign by BBDO Guerrero Manila successfully breaks down existing labels on why men are called “boss” and women “bossy” for exactly the same professional behavior. What’s interesting here is that the brand taps into a highly topical discussion showing its true commitment rather than putting the focus on advertising the actual product. Deemed as one of the most powerful videos by Lean In founder Sheryl Sandberg, the foundation has just launched its #banbossy campaign to encourage girls to lead.

 

Marks & Spencer

The British high street retailer has mustered some of the country’s most exceptional women and female role models from actress Helen Mirren and artist Tracey Emin to Olympic Gold winning boxer Nicola Adams, who all have a strong sense of personal style and share similar inspirational achievements which has propelled them to success. Featuring women of all ages, backgrounds and careers, the campaign Meet Britain’s Leading Ladies, created by RKCR Y&R and shot by Annie Leibovitz, is a discussion of the idea of value. Women not only accept themselves as they are but define themselves through their courage and hard work they invest in their daily jobs and lives which unites them in their efforts.

 

Mercy Academy

Ranked by AdWeek as one of 2013’s most inspiring campaigns Mercy Academy makes a point of calling the image of passive women a thing of the past. ‘You’re not a princess – prepare for real life’ is one of the striking taglines by this Catholic preparatory school urging women and girls to take control of their lives. The broader message resonating here is for women to step up to success and by doing so not only become equal partners on the economic stage but also secure an independent livelihood.

 

Plan Nederland

Highlighting the importance worldwide to educate girls, to protect them and to provide opportunities to have them develop into powerful strong women, is the notion for the campaign launched by the NGO Plan Nederland. Showing frame-by-frame, real women immersed in their most natural roles – as mothers, daughters, friends and professionals, next to some of the most established and courageous women of our time such as Rosa Parks, it underlines its core message of the need for powerful women as the backbone of society.

 

Nike

Nike’s Endless Possibilities campaign is a clear message for women to lean in and push themselves that little bit harder to achieve the impossible. Reflecting the mood of conquering exciting new paths and careers it locks into Nike’s own core message of pushing boundaries by determination and will.

 

Key take-aways

  • A new visual language breaks down stereotypes and encourages women to lead
  • Self-determination and an emphasis on skills defines portrayals of modern females
  • Today’s woman expresses power and leadership through equality and balance
  • Portrayals of unique and diverse females are united by their common attributes of hard work and success