The above ad from Sheffield Business School was released to the public in 2011 to entice potential applicants. It is constructed using primarily text to target its audience of potential students– however, the focus is only on enticing men to join their program. The ad uses a bright yellow background to attract its audience, then features text to define that they are looking for applicants (specifically future graduates) that desire to be called “sir”, i.e. men. It seems that the intention is to turn an undesired phrase, “Our graduates often get called names,” into a positive by proposing a name that typically signifies respect. The implication is either that they are strictly looking for male applicants, or that male applicants are the only candidates that complete the program.
In smaller text at the bottom, the ad states, “If you’ve been, it shows.” This statement makes the larger message more powerful, by suggesting that attending the campus, it is clear to notice that the students are primarily male. The Complete University Guide reports that as of the 2018-2019 school year, the school population is 55% male, further enforcing this idea. Despite the fact that this ad is nearly a decade old, the school still maintains a gender ratio that favours men. The word choice used in the advertisement is problematic in encouraging this gender divide, and contributes to the lack of female representation in academia. You would expect contemporary university institutions to remain impartial to gender discrimination, but this ad coupled with the reported campus gender ratios shows that there is still a bias against women at this institution.
My version of the ad highlights this issue by explicitly noting that the school clearly caters to a male-gendered audience, discouraging women from applying to the school. Women have been challenging academia’s male-dominance for decades. It is schools who create ads like this that continue to deter women from participating in professional industries, and sets back the progress women have made towards equality in the workplace. By changing the phrasing to “Apply to our business program today, but only men”, the ad now explicitly states what was implied in the original ad: the school wants people to apply and eventually graduate, “but only men.” The seemingly harmless word choice used in the original ad is made more severe and noticeable in my jammed version, showing just how biased the original ad is towards men.
Further, I’ve chosen to keep the smaller text at the bottom of the ad. I feel as though it unintentionally supports the gendered nature of the school and reinforces my point in itself. Considering how the school does sport a male majority on campus, it is important to highlight that the subliminal text serves to encourage this inequality in practice. It is hard to believe that we are still fighting for gender equality in university environments, yet this school has a clear barrier for female applicants. My ad subverts the subtext of the original and draws attention to the discrimination they are encouraging.
The Complete University Guide. “Sheffield Hallam University”. thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk. www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/sheffield-hallam/ (Accessed June 26, 2019).