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Media disempower women, Geena Davis tells Forum

Friday, July 26, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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Deep-seated, stubborn gender bias, caused and perpetuated by skewed images of girls and women in the media, is preventing women from achieving their full potential, according to Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis, founder of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis spoke on the need for action and passionate advocacy at the Network of Executive Women Executive Leaders Forum, held July 23- 25 at Terranea Resort outside of Los Angeles.

Noting that females of all ages are grossly misrepresented in movies, television shows and other media, Davis said women, men, corporations and governments must work together to change the way women are perceived and cultivate women leaders.

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Among the startling statistics Davis offered the 300 senior executives attending the NEW Forum were:

If women are added to Congress at the rate we have been adding women, we will achieve gender parity in Congress in 500 years.

In group scenes, only 17 percent of characters are female. "Apparently, women don’t like to 'gather,'" Davis said.

While females are more than half the population of the United States, males outnumber females three to one in family films. Even more staggering: This ratio is the same as it was in 1946.

From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law or in politics. In these films, 80.5 percent of all working characters are male and 19.5 percent are female. In the real world, women comprise 50 percent of the workforce.

During her acting career, Davis said she became aware of how few great roles there are for women. "For roles that are there, they don’t drive the plot," she noted. "They are someone’s girlfriend or they are there for eye candy."

Her roles in movies such as "Thelma & Louise" (1991) led to a profound interest in the way girls and women are portrayed in the media and cemented her passion to help empower them. "These [acting] experiences have led me down paths that were not part of my master plan," she noted.

Since "Thelma & Louise," Davis said she has chosen roles based on the answer to the question: "What are the women in the audience going to think about my character?” Today, she tries to find projects that allow her to play women in control of her own fate. "If you see me playing the comatose wife of Sean Connery -- and that age gap is about right for Hollywood -- you’ll know I’m broke,” she said.

Having spent most of her adult life encouraging girls and women to reach their full potential, Davis told the senior leaders in the room, "We can and must leverage the impact that we have."

Geena Davis discusses the media's role in gender biases
at the 2013 NEW Executive Leaders Forum.

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