Skip to content
June 30, 2022

Speaking for ourselves


Originally posted in Campaign


It’s more urgent than ever for women to reclaim the narrative around our health.


Months ago, I was working on a piece about how women rarely control the narratives behind advertising campaigns addressing their health. But that doesn’t matter now. Action does. 


Our world has been shockingly altered. Roe v. Wade was overturned last week and we’re facing in stark daylight the lack of control women have over our own bodies. Despite two-thirds of U.S. citizens supporting legal abortion and the right for women to control their own reproductive choices, a Supreme Court led by religiously conservative men, selected for partisan reasons, just overturned Roe’s 50-year mandate.


Everyone can get involved in the fight for reproductive justice by voting, protesting and volunteering. But there are also ways our industry specifically can influence society to return to a place where women are the decision makers when it comes to, well, us.


While women make over 85% of all purchases, representing some $7 trillion in business and consumer spending, women-owned advertising agencies make up less than 1% of the market. Meanwhile, men fill more than nine in 10 biopharma CEO positions, holding massive control over women’s health and wellness needs. 


Not surprisingly, 91% of women surveyed by the American Association of Advertising reported that advertisers do not understand them.


It’s time for women in advertising to lead the discussion around our bodies — from the way we market products to the conversations around reproductive freedom. 


First, agencies that employ anyone capable of getting pregnant, or are led by women, or market to women in any capacity have a duty to use their resources to support reproductive freedom initiatives. As leaders, we cannot reap the financial rewards of marketing women’s health without actively supporting reproductive freedom. 


Last month, I put out a call out to advertising and marketing agencies and freelancers to donate their time to organizations fighting for reproductive freedom and abortion access. Over 120 agencies and individuals have volunteered, servicing 34 unique needs ranging from SEO support, to web redesign, press release drafts, creative campaigns, media planning and more. It’s a small example of how we can use our skills to shape the women’s health conversation. 


But there is still more to do. Agencies must commit to covering the costs for employees traveling out of state for an abortion, allowing employees to skip work to protest, ensuring competitive maternity and paternity leave, covering healthcare for and putting corporate capital behind systemic societal social change.


Our second task is perhaps less immediately impactful, but long-term critical to reclaim our narratives. Women-led agencies must be in charge of marketing products primarily purchased by women. I’m talking about products around conception, childbirth, aging — anything having to do with what we choose to put on or in our bodies. 


Just as female politicians can alter the legislative agenda to represent women’s best interests (and female legislators can elect judges with women’s best interest in mind), women-led agencies can and must shape the stories around the products we consume. 


Who gets to decide what a woman does with her body? Who gets to decide what products a woman puts on or in her body? Who shapes the narratives around women’s health? We must. Because we decide when it comes to our own bodies. And the sooner the ad industry rises to the call, the sooner we impact real change in our society.




Learn more about Quirk Femhealth services.