Quick Hit: Latest from the Geena Davis Institute

There is a slew of new data out from the Geena Davis Institute, which was set up by the actress eight years ago to monitor both the quantity and quality of roles played by women in film and television, as well as the gender balances of those behind the scenes in the media industries. As far as I can see the institute confines itself to examining USA-produced material, and to visual media (i.e. I don’t think they look at books). They give themselves a tripartite research/education/advocacy brief to work with, so their goals are not merely passive recording and reaction, but the intention of being a force for change.

Their latest report is the very detailed Gender Roles & Occupations: A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television. Here is the PDF of the full research report. Yes, it’s as bad as you think.

In response, Davis has suggested that November be “Add Female Characters  Month”. Women and Hollywood quoted Davis’s three step plan for industry creatives:

1) Go through your script and change several male characters to female

2) Insure that your crowd scenes are half female by writing it in the script “A crowd gathers, which is half women”

3) If there’s a group, gang, squad, or team in your story, make several of them women, not just one!

A neat summary that highlights both how easy it should be to fix things, and the ridiculous fact that the above is not remotely the default.

Geena Davis at a podium with the sign "Healthy Media for Youth Act". A group of girls in scout uniform and adult women behind.

Davis speaking at the Girl Scouts USA “Healthy Media for Youth Act” lobby day.

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism, media

Tags: , , ,

4 replies

  1. I’ll have a proper look at this lately, but I just wanted to throw in that I really saw a similar thing while attending my sister’s graduation from high school the other night. They read out each student’s career aspirations, and I was struck by how many of the girls wanted to work in childcare and nursing professions, and how many of the boys wanted to work in IT, science and business. So frustrating!

  2. Jo:
    When I went back to university, on a course that placed a premium on computer skills, I was amazed both by the number of people who couldn’t type at all, and the fact that the overwhelming majority were female. And it transpired that they’d all been told in their teens that they shouldn’t learn to type if they didn’t want to be pigeonholed as only good for secretarial work.

    • My mum did a touch typing course at TAFE when I was in high school, and I decided to use her books to learn as well, for the specific purpose of being able to type my own essays in university! Those typing skills did help me get a part-time clerical job at a merchant bank which helped me pay for uni, but I’m sure that it did also hold me back from getting a chance at doing some of the trading desk support work there.
      When applying for later positions, I have not mentioned my touch-typing because of exactly that pigeonholing Tom mentions.
      Being able to touch-type has been a huge boon as a blogger and writer and coder generally though.

  3. Director Gillian Armstrong has spoken of how, upon graduating from the Australian Film and Television School in the 70s, everyone wrote to the ABC, which was what you did to find starting-out work back then, and all the guys were offered entry-level tech jobs in the camera and sound departments, while she got a reply asking for her typing speed.

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