Media disempower women, Geena Davis tells Forum
Friday, July 26, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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,'"
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
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.