AD Club Leaders: The 'Fem-Powerment' Movement

“Fem-powerment” campaigns, such as “Like a Girl” by Always, Dove’s “Real Beauty” and Verizon’s “Inspire Her Mind,” are bringing to the surface a heated debate about the authenticity of advertising and these ads are radically tackling sexism. Here’s what AD Club Leader, Kerstin Recker, Vice President, Marketing at NTENT had to say on the issue:


1.     Why do you think this message of female empowerment going viral right now?

It’s a combination of factors:

The digital age (blogs, social media networks, UGC video platforms) has served as a catalyst, creating new opportunities for women to share their voices and join forces, in real-time at scale. The many thoughts, ideas and opinions that make up the feminist movement are no longer beholden to how big media defines them. Women are leveraging digital channels to drive change, unite people and spur movement. (e.g. Meta being forced to address gender-based hate speech/groups on their platform, crowdsourced map tracking incidents of sexual violence in Syria spearheaded by Women Under Siege, Disney withdrawing their shirts for young girls that said “I need a hero” after people united under #notbuyingit and filing a petition on

Shifting roles: While we, women, still have a ways to go to close the gender gap in the workplace, the reality is there are more women today earning master’s degrees, entering the workforce and achieving senior level positions.

As women’s roles both in the workforce and at home shift, so is our spending power. Women are slated to hold over 2/3 of the nation’s spending power by 2030.

Brands are not ignorant to any of these facts. If they want to reach women, or better yet, our pockets, they have to lead with empowerment and engage women in a conversation that is on par with where women are today. The alternative is to risk having the whistle blown on them, e.g.Ultraviolet being forced to drop Rick Ross after outrage from the female community.

2.       What are some cultural, societal and industry factors that are spurring this trend?

The role, spending power and professional position of women is evolving, and there are many driving forces for this. Here are a few facts that have implications culturally and industrially:

  • Women control 85% of household purchasing decisions, representing a $7 trillion market
  • By 2030, women are predicted to control 2/3 of the nation’s wealth
  • 60% of all master’s degrees are earned by women
  • 52% hold all professional level jobs
But despite these trends, we have a long way to go:
  • Women only make up 12.3 % of U.S corporate board seats (consistent for the last decade)
  • Only 9% of top management positions are held by women
  • Less than 3% of Creative Director positions are held by women
There has certainly been a shift over the last 15 months in advertisements that highlight female empowerment from professional achievements to beauty, including big brands (Dove’s Real Beauty SketchesCadillac’s “Stacy’s Mom”) and start ups (Goldiebox), Always, “#LikeAGirl”. However, the feminist perspective is still not at the forefront. Change takes time, but as a collective group, that change can occur at a more rapid rate with the use of digital platforms and women continuing to choose to “lean in.”

3.       Are these ads helpful or harmful to the feminism cause? Why? Do you think these ads are tackling sexism, using advertising as a medium for change?

The ads promoting female empowerment are helpful. Advertisements have the ability not only to influence purchase decisions and stimulate business, but to influence culture, human understanding, perceptions, awareness and movement over time, and start a conversation.

As more advertisements amplify female empowerment and put a spotlight on issues and challenges, combined with the upward pressure of the collective female community, the greater the opportunity for change.

Two campaigns that did an excellent job of putting forward female issues are: Pantene and UN Women print campaign.

4.       Do women finally have the edge as consumers and corporations are taking notice for profit? Or is it something else? 

Yes, the purchasing power of women is increasing, and yes, some corporations are taking note of that. But, it’s a combination of factors as mentioned in question 1.