PhD Graduate Kim de Laat and Professor Shyon Baumann on the Underrepresentation of Older Women in Advertising

Kim de LaatPhD Graduate Kim de Laat and Professor Shyon Baumann published an article in Poetics analyzing cultural schemas in television advertisements to determine the impact of underrepresentation of older women in media content. They argue that the degree of underrepresentation indicates a devaluation of the demographic, which may have negative social implications.

Shyon Baumann is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. His research examines questions of evaluation, legitimacy, status, cultural schemas, and inequality. Kim de Laat obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2017 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Gender + the Economy at the Rotman School of Management. Her research examines the interplay between culture, work, and organizations.

We have posted the article citation and abstract below. The full article text is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.

Baumann, Shyon and Kim de Laat. 2012. “Socially Defunct: A Comparative Analysis of the Underrepresentation of Older Women in Advertising.” Poetics, 40(6):514-541.

In our analysis of a large sample of television commercials, we find that the underrepresentation of older women is more extreme than the underrepresentation of older men. We investigate the cultural significance of this underrepresentation through comparisons of cultural schemas in advertising for age and gender. Our multivariate analyses show that while there are significant gender differences, both younger women and younger men are shown in a diversity of contexts—namely in employment and a variety of domestic contexts. Older men are portrayed more frequently on the job and with more job authority than other groups. In contrast, older women lack any clear occupational or familial roles and are the only group not associated with a socially valued schema. An interpretive reading of older women as primary characters in commercials complements our quantitative results. The cultural significance of media underrepresentation emerges through the comparison of cultural schemas for men and women of varying age groups simultaneously.

Read the full article here.