Future of Womxn 2020

Cultural conversations have been evolving in recent years to talk more openly about unbalanced power structures, invisible biases and the need for policies that protect and benefit all. We have seen multiple viral movements, an increase in visible female leaders, protests and womxn’s marches but if we dig even a little deeper, we still live very much in a man’s world…

Why are we still talking about this?

Watching Mrs America's depiction of the reactionary backlash to the feminist movement of the 1970s in the same week Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to the floor of the House of Representatives to call out the *ongoing sexism in Congress (*for that read America and the world) it’s saddening to realise how little progress has actually been made.

Lockdown has created a situation where many of us are “watching the same show” and by that I don’t just mean I May Destroy You but the civil unrest on global streets played out on social media. It has allowed the eyes of the world to re-focus on issues that have perhaps been hidden or out of the spotlight for too long.

the cultural landscape

A little bit of background to the state of affairs in 2020. At the current rate of change, the global gender gap will take 108 years to close. The gap is measured across four key pillars: economic opportunity; political empowerment; educational attainment; and health and survival.

Economic Opportunity

The pandemic has hit womxn hardest – The Guardian believes it may well be the greatest step backwards for womxn ever.

Womxn are bearing the brunt of the economic fallout during Covid and taking on a greater share of domestic work and childcare

Political Empowerment

Our political systems are a microcosm of the worst of toxic workplaces, which are built on bullying and gender-harassment. Recent behaviour perpetrated by and condoned by people in the highest office has confirmed that drastic reform is still needed.

For every eight womxn who explore entering politics, only one actually runs.

Educational Attainment

While the loss of learning during the pandemic will be experienced in different ways in different countries, it is girls from poverty-stricken communities who are most at risk of falling through the cracks.

Even before the pandemic, at least one in three adolescent girls from the poorest households had never been to school.

Health and Survival

Womxn’s health and pain is misunderstood at best, diminished, misdiagnosed or just plain ignored at worst.

62% of people believe that womxn’s health and intimate experiences are not talked about openly, while 40% of womxn feel their mental wellbeing is negatively impacted as a result.

Key cultural movements

Beyond the eternal challenges and ongoing fight for gender parity, it is important to keep a constant track of the key cultural themes affecting womxn. To be part of a cultural conversation, brands must actively understand and engage with the needs and wants of their communities.

Image by Lonely Label


When we talk about womxn we mean everyone who identifies as female and the multitude of identities within that. In our new cultural landscape, there are no finites or absolutes. Gender – like identity, power, influence, ownership and authority – is negotiable. The rules and structures of old need no longer apply, yet so many outdated systems are still in operation today while much of the world wants to move on.

There is no easy fix. Token depictions of minorities or easy quota-filling from brands is not a true representation of this fluidity. This isn’t just about showing a range of womxn’s body sizes or having a diverse cast of models in a campaign, it’s about diving deep into the lived experiences of female communities and exploring them in all their nuance. The brands that take the time will reap the rewards.

Image by Takanori Okuwaki

case study: THIIIRD magazine

THIIIRD is an independent magazine and inclusive platform amplifying the voices and visibility of talent from underrepresented backgrounds.

"THIIIRD is dedicated to exploring the true benefits of diversity –we move beyond the ticking of boxes and filling of quotas, we expand into the territory of the genuine equality experience. We seek to amplify the voices and perspectives of people who face barriers in society on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, ability, faith and/or heritage.”

No taboo topics

There are no more taboos. Today’s female audiences want to engage in difficult topics that were once classed impolite or vulgar in order to confront popular misconceptions.  Well-womxn narratives 
have moved away from girly and discreet products and services towards platforms and devices that actually provide knowledge, education and personal agency.

case study:  #wombstories

Directed by Nisha Ganatra and an all-womxn team of animators and illustrators, #wombstories is a new campaign from Bodyform/Libresse, showing the often-unspoken emotional and physical complexities of womxn’s health, from miscarriages and the menopause to endometriosis.

Rewriting history

Searches for “gender equality” on Google have grown by 20% in the last 2 years. 2018 marked 100 years since the 19th amendment, giving womxn the right to vote yet womxn and their achievements in science, the arts and more have been routinely removed or written out of history. A number of initiatives are seeking to redress the balance.

Reni Eddo-Lodge by YMC

case study: London tube map

Londoners Reni Eddo-Lodge (pictured left) and Emma Watson are spearheading a project to reimagine the city’s iconic tube map, by renaming all 270 stops after the womxn and non-binary people who have shaped the history of each pocket of the capital.

Media representation

Around the world, womxn are far less likely than men to be seen in the media. As subjects of stories, womxn only appear in 25% of television, radio, and print news. As an industry,  media and advertising has a huge responsibility to ensure womxn and those who identify as womxn are able to see themselves fairly represented. In a 2015 report, womxn made up a mere 19% of experts featured in news stories and 37% of reporters telling stories globally.

case study: Michaela Cole

Michaela Coel exploded onto our screens with her surreal, filthy sitcom Chewing Gum, about a sexually frustrated 24-year-old losing her religion. Five years later: I May Destroy You is a searing, 12-part drama about consent, friendship and the challenges faced by young creatives, in a narrative inspired by her own experience of sexual assault.

Why this matters to you?

At TCOLab we work with our clients to understand their role and responsibility in culture. As brands and organisations scramble to declare themselves woke and inclusive, it is important to note that the situation for womxn and particularly womxn of colour remains at best unbalanced and at worst dangerous.

Not working collaboratively to dismantle a system designed to maintain inequality is inexcusable for brands wanting to survive in 2020 and beyond.

Helen Job, Head of Insight at TCO London
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