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Campaign to change how women are pictured with money

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There are stark inequalities in how women and men are shown with money in visual media, finds a new report from Brunel University London and Starling Bank.

Women are often portrayed as childlike, while many types of women are not shown at all, reveals a study of 600 of the most used stock image photographs of people and finance.

This negatively influences how women are treated when it comes to finance and how they feel about themselves and their capabilities with money, say academics.

“Our analysis revealed clear differences in how men and women are represented with money, as well as a general lack of diversity,” said Brunel Business School’s Professor Shireen Kanji who wrote the report with Brunel’s Dr Ana Canhoto.

“These depictions really matter. They negatively affect not only how people are treated, but also how they feel about themselves in terms of money, which is typically used to symbolise power, influence and freedom.”

Across the study, women are nearly four times as likely to be depicted as childlike with money compared to men (15% compared to 4%), rising to more than half of images (52%) when searching ‘women and money’ specifically. This is most prominent in images of women putting money in, or even hugging, piggy banks or  jars (in 24% of images of women, compared to 8% for men). 

Men are mostly shown with notes (53% compared with 44%), while women are more likely to be pictured with coins, often pennies (25% compared with 13%). Researchers interpret this photography as showing saving typically as a woman’s role, and mostly in small amounts. 

Men, by contrast, are usually counting or fanning out wads of cash and are more likely than women to be socialising with other people where they are handling notes (19% compared with 4%).

Women are also rarely portrayed as the decision makers, and instead are frequently passive bystanders. It is men signing documents and shaking hands, while women watch. There aren’t many images of women looking stressed or concerned (1.3% of women look very worried compared with 9% of men), implying that they are not in charge and have little to worry about. 

Women are twice as likely to be pictured with a hot drink and potted plants - symbolic of homeliness and leisure rather than business. Bizarrely, when men are shown with a plant, it’s often a mini-cactus.

Women with visible disabilities, wearing headscarves, with tattoos, who are overweight, or in a same-sex relationship are rarely captured. Few women depicted were over 40, with searches for ‘women and money’ four times more likely to use young models than with ‘men and money’ (29% compared to 7%). Grey or white hair was especially rare, only appearing in 1% of women pictured, compared to 5% of men.

Ethnicity, for women at least, was found to be fairly balanced, however when looking at the images of ‘men and loans’ there was a clear lack of black men.

The Starling Bank and Lensi Photography’s #MakeMoneyEqual image library holds 100 free photographs that better represent women and money according to the report.  

“Financial inequality doesn’t end with the wage gap – it’s all around us in the images we consume, often subconsciously, every day,” said Starling Bank CEO and founder Anne Boden.

“That needs to change. Too often women are pictured like children with tiny amounts of money. We need fewer piggy banks and pennies, more women taking the lead, and greater diversity overall.”