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How popular media affects girls' career choices

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We recently released a very, very comprehensive study of the occupations of female characters in both television and family-rated films. And we found that in family films, 81% of the jobs are held by male characters. And of the female characters, specifically in G-rated films, which are for very young kids, we found that there are no CEOs, no politicians in high positions, there were no female characters in medical science or in law. And male characters did hold these positions, but none of the female characters. And this is important because you judge your value in society by seeing yourself reflected in the culture. So if girls aren't seeing themselves, and they aren't seeing themselves in important positions, in positions of leadership, then it doesn't occur to them that's an occupation they could pursue. If you look specifically at the STEM fields - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math - the ratio of male to female characters is 15:1. And we know that our society is craving more women and girls to get involved in these fields. The demand is there. But they're not seeing it in television. There was 1 category the researcher pointed out to us where we need work no further to increasing the percentage of female characters doing this, which is forensic science. I think it's because of all the CSI shows and Bones that we're very well covered as forensic scientists. The interesting thing is in real life, there's such demand from women to study forensic science at college now that colleges are desperately adding more and more courses to meet that demand. It's well over 60% studying that are now women. So I think we can attribute that to seeing characters like that and thinking, hey, I could be that. That looks great. I want to try that.

Actor Geena Davis explains a recent study showing how popular media does not evenly show women in the workplace and how that affects girls' career choices

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Geena Davis

Academy Award Winning Actor & Founder of Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

Academy Award winner Geena Davis is one of Hollywood’s most respected actors, appearing in several roles that became cultural landmarks. Earning the 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama, Davis broke ground in her portrayal of the first female President of the United States in ABC’s hit show “Commander in Chief.”In 1989, Davis received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the offbeat dog trainer Muriel Pritchett in Lawrence Kasdan’s “The Accidental Tourist.” She was again nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance in Ridley Scott’s “Thelma & Louise,” in which she co-starred with Susan Sarandon. Davis went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of baseball phenomenon Dottie Hinson in “A League of Their Own.” Davis made her feature film debut starring opposite Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie.” She went on to star in such films as “The Fly,” “Beetlejuice,” “Angie,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” and “Stuart Little.”

Few have achieved such remarkable success in as many different fields as Davis has: she is not only an Oscar and Golden Globe winning actor, but a world-class athlete (at one time the nation’s 13th-ranked archer), a member of the genius society Mensa, and is becoming recognized for her tireless advocacy of women and girls nearly as much as for her acting accomplishments. She is the founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which engages film and television creators to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters – and reduce gender stereotyping – in media made for children 11 and under.

Davis was appointed Special Envoy for Women and Girls in ICT for the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Davis is also an official partner of UN Women, working toward their goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women worldwide. Davis is the Chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women. Davis holds honorary degrees from Boston University, Bates College and New England College. 

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