50% of the world's population occupies 31% of speaking roles in movies, 23% of leading roles, 19% of script writers and 7% of directors. No points for guessing the under-represented demographic I refer to is women. Some may argue that films try to capture reality - according to the Fortune 1,000 list released in 2013, just 4.2 percent of the top 1,000 companies in the US had female CEOs and the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments is barely 20%. My counterpoint is that the film industry is potentially the single most influencing sector that has the potential to change the dominant narrative and create emotional connections that trigger human action, break regressive stereotypes and change public perception. This allows film makers to go one step beyond capturing reality - it allows them to transform it.
Even more disturbingly - sexualization is the standard for female characters globally. Women are twice as likely as men to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, partially or fully naked and thin. In a world where corporations invest millions of dollars to make girls feel like they need make-up to be 'beautiful', where the media has made 'attractive' synonymous with 'anorexic', where magazines feature air-brushed cover girls with unattainable standards of of 'perfection' that permanently lowers the self-esteem of women across the globe - I would urge the film industry to view this as an opportunity to step up and be part of the solution, not the problem.
While women represent half of the world’s population, less than one third of all speaking characters in film are female. Less than a quarter of the fictional on-screen workforce is comprised of women (22.5 per cent). When they are employed, females are largely absent from powerful positions. Women represent less than 15 per cent of business executives, political figures, or science, technology, engineering, and/or math (STEM) employees. “The fact is – women are seriously under-represented across nearly all sectors of society around the globe, not just on-screen, but for the most part we’re simply not aware of the extent. And media images exert a powerful influence in creating and perpetuating our unconscious biases,” said Geena Davis, Founder & Chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “However, media images can also have a very positive impact on our perceptions. In the time it takes to make a movie, we can change what the future looks like. There are woefully few women CEOs in the world, but there can be lots of them in films. How do we encourage a lot more girls to pursue science, technology and engineering careers? By casting droves of women in STEM, politics, law and other professions today in movies,” she added.