REPRESENTATIONS OF WOMEN STEM CHARACTERS IN MEDIA
In partnership with IF/THEN, an initiative of the Lyda Hill Foundation
Message from Geena Davis
At the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, we’ve conducted numerous studies over the years showing that diverse and high-quality portrayals of women and girls are quite simply missing from children’s media. This has a real impact on young viewers’ ideas about themselves and the occupations they pursue. Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, where only one-quarter of scientists and engineers in the United States are female. The factors that contribute to women’s slim presence in the sector are undoubtedly complex, but we know that media play a contributing role. In 2012, my Institute analyzed occupations in children’s media and found that for every 15 male characters shown in STEM jobs there was only one female character portrayed in a STEM profession. When girls in their formative years don’t see female characters on screen as biochemists, software developers, engineers, or statisticians, they are less likely to imagine or pursue those career paths for themselves.
However, when girls do see women in STEM in media, it has a significant impact. Our 2018 study, “The Scully Effect,” looked at the influence of The X-Files’ protagonist Dana Scully on girls and women entering the STEM field. Nearly two-thirds of women working in STEM today say that Scully served as their personal role model and increased their confidence to excel in a male-dominated profession. In other words, as we say, “If she can see it, she can be it.”
Because of our early focus on this area, we’ve been eager to examine this issue more closely and give STEM representation in children’s media the full attention it deserves. As Michelle Obama says, “We need all hands on deck. And that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”
That’s why I was thrilled with the opportunity to partner with Lyda Hill, an entrepreneur and philanthropist with a passion for science and math, and a spirit for bucking the status quo, on this groundbreaking new study. With her support, we have conducted an extensive ten year content analysis of STEM characters in entertainment media and a nationally representative survey of girls and young women. These two methods enabled us to assess how STEM professions are represented in media, and how these representations (and messages from society more broadly) affect girls’ perceptions of and participation in STEM. The results published here show once again the profound role that media play in shaping young people’s aspirations and career paths.
Increasing media depictions of women in STEM is easy to do, and provides a big bang for the buck. There are concrete steps that those of us within the entertainment industry can take to encourage more girls and women to pursue jobs in this important sector, raising up all of those with the potential to become our future STEM visionaries and innovators.
Obtained from: https://seejane.org/research-informs-empowers/portray-her/
Access the full report by clicking the image below.