Written by: Vanessa Reich-Shackelford
When I first introduced the idea of our Media Depictions of Women in STEM, the representation of women in STEM in popular media was pretty grim. While women characters who were in STEM did encourage more women to pursue studies in STEM, such as in forensic science, male characters received two times the amount of screen time as female characters in 2015, and characters who were men appeared on screen nearly three times more often than characters who were women.
So, how are things doing 2 years later? Spoiler alert: Not a lot better.
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media released a report to “establish benchmark measures for the percentage of protagonists who are women, people of color, LGBTQIA, and people with disabilities in family films, so that we can quantify progress over time.” In short, the study found that family films with female leads are outearning male leads, yet male characters still outnumber female characters two to one.
But, when asking the question of whether or not women are well represented in media, we have to look at intersectionality, identifying how different aspects of social and political discrimination overlap with gender. This report by the Geena Davis Institute does just that, as seen above in their mandate for the report. Here are some of the fast facts that the report uncovered:
This study finds that there is progress made for female leading characters, but women are far from achieving parity with men as leads in family films. Leads of colour, LGBTQIA individuals, and individuals with disabilities are further underrepresented. For the latter 2 groups, there has been no measurable progress, while the representation of leads of colour has improved slightly.
The report offers some recommendations, namely that hiring in film must be diversified in writing rooms and throughout the creative process; as well as distributing and marketing resources equally. Studios must also commit to making more family films about the lives of women, people of colour, LGBTQIA individuals, and people with disabilities, and then ensure that these films reach the widest audience possible by equitably promoting them. They also suggest a very fast way to improve representation is to make sure that the worlds that are depicted and re-created in family films look like the real world in terms of whose stories are told.
Here at WWEST, we will do our part by continuing to examine how women in STEM are represented in media, to raise awareness of this aspect of film production.