The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is a partner in the new documentary: “This Changes Everything,” about how everything has not changed. “It paints an impressively full picture of how Hollywood’s gender imbalance is sustained and also how it reverberates throughout the culture.”
Thank you to the Los Angeles Press Club for the screening and panel discussion.
“The new documentary film, This Changes Everything, about the struggles women face in the film industry, is the subject of a great panel discussion. Panelists include: Geena Davis, Catherine Hardwicke, Kimberly Peirce and the film’s director Tom Donahue. Moderated by Devra Maza.”
More from THE GEENA DAVIS INSTITUTE ON GENDER and MEDIA:
If women and girls don’t see themselves on screen as STEM professionals, they’re less likely to pursue those career paths.”-Geena Davis
In the U.S., only 24% of professionals in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are women. Increasing media depictions of women in STEM encourages more girls and women to pursue STEM jobs in the real world. You hold the key to inspiring future visionaries and innovators.
Seejane.org If She Can See It, She Can Be It
IF SHE CAN SEE IT, SHE CAN BE IT™
The Geena Benchmark Report: 2007-2017
The purpose of this study is 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.
- Male leads outnumber female leads
although this has improved slightly in the last decade
- Family films with female leads closed the gap in domestic box office revenue over the past decade and now earn more than family films with male leads
- When it comes to race, white leads outnumber leads of color
- Box office revenue for family films with leads of color and racially diverse co-leading casts have caught up with and surpassed family films with white leads
- FEWER THAN 1%
of family films feature a LGBTQIA lead, and we have seen no progress in the past decade
- FEWER THAN 1%
of family films feature a lead with a disability, and this has not improved in the past decade
Women constitute 51% of the U.S. population,1but most family films tell the stories of men’s lives:
- Male leads vastly outnumber female leads—71.3% compared to 28.8%. This means that men’s stories were featured twice as often as women’s stories.
- Female leads are the least represented in the action (9.4%), adventure (23.6%), and comedy (28.7%) genres. However, women are equitably represented in horror (55.9%) and romance (46.3%) films.
- We see fluctuations in women’s representation from 2007 to 2017, but the trend is upward, meaning that more women were cast in leading roles by the end of the decade than the start of the decade. In 2007, 23.8% of leads were women compared to 30.1% in 2017, with a high of 33.3% in 2016 (Chart 1).
Previous studies find that women represent half of the film-going population,2 and that gender diversity on screen translates into higher revenues at the box office.3 We find that the gender diversity bonus at the box office is a relatively recent phenomenon:
- The amount of money female-led films make has increased over the last decade. In 2007, female-led films grossed an average of $44.3 million, and in 2017, they grossed an average of $80.1 million (Chart 2).
- Family films with female leads caught up with and surpassed films with male leads in the past decade. A decade ago, family films with male leads earned significantly more revenue than films with female leads, but this reversed by 2016 when female leads grossed $94.3 million compared to $88.0 million for male leads. In 2017, female leads surpassed male leads again— $80.1 million compared to $78.4 million.
We recommend the following actions to move the needle on lead representations:
• Diversify hiring in film production. Diversity in writing rooms and throughout the creative process translates into more diversity on the screen,11 so the problem with representation starts with inequitable hiring decisions. Hiring practices in the film industry have seen no improvement in the last two decades.12 Studios must truly commit to anti-discrimination in their hiring practices, and set goals to diversify their workforce.
• Commit distribution and marketing resources equally. Another foundational problem with representation on the screen is that films directed by women do not receive the same distribution and marketing resources as films directed by men.13 Despite this, films written, directed, or starring women enjoy a greater average return on investment. Studios must commit to making more family films about the lives of women, people of color, LGBTQIA individuals, and people with disabilities, and ensure that these films reach the widest audience possible by equitably promoting them.
• Tell stories that reflect the real world. Studios could make the representations in family films equitable overnight by making sure that the worlds they are re-creating in family films look like the real world in terms of whose stories are told. Is it especially important to have diversity with leading characters since plotlines and narratives revolve around their stories.
Based on previous research coupled with our findings, we propose the following interventions to increase the participation of girls and women in STEM majors and careers:
- Improve media representations of STEM characters when it comes to gender and race. This study demonstrates that media is influential in shaping attitudes toward STEM, but content producers continue to disproportionately represent STEM characters as white men, especially leading characters. Special attention should be paid to increase the representation of women and people of color as STEM characters, and to improve the ways women STEM characters are portrayed.
- Cultivate girls’ interest in math and science from an early age through media role models, parents, educators, and mentors. Having supportive mentors, teachers, friends, and family members improves girls’ interest in and intention to pursue STEM.
- Implement early childhood interventions to combat stereotypes about science as a pursuit for men, and cultural misperceptions that girls and women have a lower aptitude for STEM.
- Retain women in STEM through equitable hiring, pay, and promotion practices, and by addressing workplace bias (gender discrimination and sexual harassment) as well as implementing flexible work-family policies.