It is often said that every stereotype is borne from a grain of truth. But, whilst that may be true, times are also changing.

Case in point – when it comes to The Sun, the assumption is that its female readers are less engaged with gender equality issues. The truth, new research has found, is that equality is high on their agenda.

In mid-2021, News UK’s Data Hub – which produces data strategy, data analytics, customer insight and data governance to inform media and marketing decisions – surveyed 2,093 Sun and Times readers.

The reality we found – when it comes to gender equality issues, The Sun women are very switched-on, consider themselves strong women and are now demanding positive role models in adverts.

Demographic data drop

Women, group of friends

So, who are The Sun’s women? Our sample of 1,089 readers breaks down like this:

  • 68% have children
  • 37% are university educated
  • 18% are a minority ethnicity
  • 25% exercise 10+ hours a week

They are tech-savvy. 94% use social media, 81% listen to commercial radio & 54% listen to podcasts. They consume news via TV (78%), newspapers (59%), social media (59%), online website (55%) and radio (48%).

Demand for a different representation

Both Times (49%) and Sun (41%) readers felt almost equally represented by women in advertising – but they want to change the attributes that advertisers represent.

Both groups felt women in advertising as are represented as pretty (44% of Sun readers), sexy (40%), strong (31%), hardworking (28%) and ambitious (27%)

But what they want is for women to be portrayed more in advertising as strong (72%), intelligent (72%) and brave (69%).

Social dynamics driving equality awareness

Sun-reading women are part of society’s awakening to gender-based disparity:

  • 68% agree their awareness of gender equality issues has increased in the last five years
  • 36% agree that social movements have impacted how they think of themselves as a woman in modern society

What, exactly, is driving that changing perception? Most readers cited social movements, followed by social media. For them, personal experience is less likely to have been a driver.

Younger Sun women are feminists

Does that mean The Sun readers are “feminists”, too? Well, the answer is complicated.

According to the survey, a majority, 52% certainly self-identify as feminist.

And the likelihood of this sentiment increases amongst Gen-Z and higher-income respondents – somewhat in line with this skew in society at large.

Start with ‘equality’

Creative Commons 2.0 - Fibonacci Blue
Creative Commons 2.0 – Fibonacci Blue

According to interviews with respondents, many Times and Sun readers alike are seeking “equality”, but not necessarily through the lens of what they deem to be “feminism”.

“I don’t really use ‘feminism’. It should be more about everyone being equal”
Sun reader, age 22

“‘Equality’ – you need to start with this as a benchmark and then everything else falls below it”
Times reader, age 53

Although the word “feminism” carries weight, the issues and topics discussed are still of great importance.

Most respondents believe the spirit of feminism to be about strength, empowerment, collaboration and freedom

‘It’s a mindset – believing in women’s rights and knowing that you can go out and get what you deserve. That’s feminism’
Sun reader, age 27