Geena Davis Says The Lack Of Women In Hollywood Isn’t About Sexism


You know her face, you know her name. And you may even be familiar with her work to give women greater visibility in the film industry. But Geena Davis is more than just your average activist. As a woman who has worked in Hollywood for the past couple of decades, she has more of an insider look into the gender imbalance in Hollywood than most people.

It started with her breakout movie ‘Thelma and Louise’ in 1991, where she starred alongside Susan Sarandon and set the world on fire portraying two strong lead female characters. In an interview with Moira Forbes, Geena says many people thought that film would be the start of a huge influx of films featuring female leads, but alas it didn’t really happen the way she thought.

In the video below, Geena talks about the birth of her daughter being a catalyst in creating the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. As she was watching G-rated TV shows and movies with her daughter, she was struck by the lack of women in key roles on screen and started to do more research. She would mention it to her peers in the industry and they weren’t any wiser. So she realized she needed some data to back up her observations, in order for anything to change.

“In the vein of taking things too far, we have now sponsored the largest amount of research on gender depictions in media covering over a 20 year span,” she says. Their focus is specifically looking into the lack of female role models in family and children’s entertainment.

When asked whether she thinks it is sexism that contributes to the gender imbalance, Geena firmly says no that is not the reason.

“What we’ve found is there’s not a plot in Hollywood to leave out women in general in movies,” she says, saying it is more than it has just been a tradition carried on from way back. In fact, since 1946 the ratio of male to females on screen has been exactly the same, according to her research. Urgh!

Don’t worry, Geena has some solutions, including this two-step plan that filmmakers and studios can easily implement in any production to ensure gender balance at the most basic level. The first is to ensure half of any crowd-scene is made up of women, and the second is for filmmakers to rewrite lead characters as female and ask themselves if the plot can still be carried. The answer will most likely be “yes” so that could be a very efficient way to ensure more characters are written as female.


One of the major areas she says girls need to see more representation in, is STEM careers (science, tech, engineering and math).

“In the United States, very few women are seen — female characters — are seen in those positions. That’s one of the main areas, the STEM fields that we want to get more women and girls interested in. We really actually need many more people to pursue those kinds of occupations. But people aren’t seeing that to model themselves after. There aren’t many real life role models in those fields, and they’re not seeing them on television.”

She also said that because 80% of the world’s entertainment comes straight from Hollywood, even other film industries around the world are impacted by the lack of representation of women in diverse roles, but other countries fare slightly better.

“When you consider the amount of media made in the States that’s consumed around the world, it could very well be that their own media is impacted by the kinds of media they see. But there’s less hypersexuality in many of the countries.”

Geena says it is what we are raised on that allows us to identify gender imbalance as “normal” as adults, and give permission to studios and filmmakers to continue on in the vein it has always been in Hollywood. Recently the GDIGM asked all the Hollywood execs who have heard their research how it impacted them with the knowledge about gender imbalance, 68% said the facts and figures were able to change 2 or more of their projects to be mindful of the apparent problem, and 41% said it impacted 4 or more of their projects.

It once again reiterates Geena’s statement that sexism isn’t necessarily the issue, it is the lack of information. Knowledge is power, and when she was asked how she defines the term, Geena states the most important thing to her is “power over oneself” in other words, you being in charge of your own fate. And if you want to change things, then do it, just like Geena did!

She brings it back to the underlying message about Thelma and Louise and why it was so inspiring to many.

“We didn’t cede control of our lives to anyone else. That’s a very empowering message. You can retain control of what happens to you.”

Check out the full interview below, and see why the work of Geena Davis and her institute is changing the very culture of Hollywood:


  1. Pingback: Why Anna Kendrick Thinks We Should Stop Being Afraid Of Feminism

  2. Pingback: Will Geena Davis' Bentonville Film Festival Be A Game Changer For Women?

  3. Pingback: Jodie Foster Says Hollywood Execs Need To Stop Seeing Women In Film As A Risk

  4. Pingback: The UN Enlists 7 Female Youtubers To Become Their Latest Gender Equality Ambassadors - GirlTalkHQ

  5. Pingback: Actress & Producer Sadie Frost's Academic View On The Lack Of Women In Film Production

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.