The new CAP Code rule: Gender Stereotyping

20 February, 2019

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Gender stereotypes have always been prevalent in the media, and advertising is no exception. Following a public consultation into the effects of gender stereotyping in advertising, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has announced that ads will no longer be permitted to portray harmful gender stereotypes.

Coming into force on 14 June 2019, the new rule will be added to rule number 4 and states that adverts:

“must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.”


As stated by CAP, evidence has suggested that harmful stereotypes in adverts “contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society”.  It has been found that the stereotypes depicted in adverts are influencing and restricting choices, aspirations and opportunities of children and adults, as (stereotypical) values conveyed in society are reinforced through the media.

CAP believes that harmful stereotypes can hold individuals back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs, and has said that these depictions “play a part in unequal gender outcomes” which on a larger scale, has a detrimental impact on the economy.

What will be caught under these rules?

The implementation of the new rule is not to say that gender stereotypes will be banned outright. The ASA has recognised in its guidance that not all gender stereotypes are de facto problematic. It does, however, seek to prevent specific harms that may arise out of gender stereotypes.

CAP has indicated that stereotypes such as women using cleaning products and men using DIY products can still be used, but they should avoid suggesting that these roles are always associated with one gender and precluded from the other. For example, contentious depictions of a man playing video games whilst a woman cleans up around him will certainly no longer be acceptable.

Another aspect of the new rule will ban ads that feature stereotypes of men and women’s personality. For example, recently a Gap campaign was criticised for implying that boys would grow up to be academics whilst girls would grow up to be social butterflies. Indicating that boys are destined for success and girls were destined to go out for coffees with friends, this depiction is very obviously harmful and would be caught under the new rules.

Equally, a depiction of a man or woman failing at something because of their gender would be unacceptable (e.g. a man failing to change a nappy), or any portrayal belittling a man or a woman for carrying out a task stereotypically associated with the other gender.


The ASA has stated “harmful gender stereotypes have no place in UK Advertisements”. The aim is that these rules will stamp out, or at least reduce, these incidents of harmful stereotypes so that these inhibitive concepts of what a man and a woman should and shouldn’t do can be eradicated.

CAP is due to carry out a 12 month review following the enforcement of the new rule, to ensure that its objective is translated into practice.

For more information on advertising standards, please contact Tom Trowhill at or on +44 (0)1892 506 342

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