New UN Women Study Says Global Film Industry Discriminates Against Women


UN Women have partnered up with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and released a study which has some pretty shocking results. The study focused on the representation of women in cinema globally, and the outcome is not good.

We’ve seen study results about how women fare in Hollywood, the world’s most popular and well-known film industry, but when you couple that with other film industries from around the world, it doesn’t get much better, which is why studies like this raise important issues.

In a press release about the study and which shared the infographic below, this first-of-its-kind research suggests deep-seated discrimination and pervasive stereotyping of women and girls.

UN Women and the Geena Davis Institute worked closely with The Rockefeller Foundation and Stacy L. Smith (PhD), Marc Choueiti, & Katherine Pieper (PhD) from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California analyzed data from 11 countries: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, United States, United Kingdom, as well as UK-US collaborations.

Here are the highlights of what they found: 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 herself.

“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.

Across the films assessed, women comprised nearly one-in-four film-makers behind the camera (directors, writers, producers). Yet when films featured a woman director or writer, the number of female characters on-screen increased significantly. One obvious remedy to gender disparity on-screen is to hire more female film-makers.The group who conducted the research also suggested that when film and media only values women and girls for their appearance, it becomes a human problem and affects our everyday lives. Girls were twice as likely than boys to be seen in sexual attire, in some form of nudity, or thin.

UK, Brazil and South Korea were at the front of the pack in terms of representation of women which featured female characters in 38 – 35.9 per cent of all speaking roles on-screen. Oy vey… It’s no wonder major motion blockbusters such as ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Lucy’ have proven to be so popular at the box office, beating out male counterparts.

Here’s Geena Davis speaking to CBS news about the new study and how the ratio of male to female characters in movies in 2014, is the same as it was in 1946: 3 men to every 1 woman. We don’t have to spell out what that means…

These films are so few and far between that when they appear, audiences flock to them proving once again with their purchasing power that this is they type of content they want to see. Yet film studios are still unwilling to invest in female-driven films. Why?

You can see the full study results in depth at the Geena Davis Institute website, but be sure to take a look at the infographic below which gives you enough of an idea why these statistics need to be changed. When the media starts taking responsibility for their product and creates content that is aspirational and realistic, it will affect society in a huge way.

Gender Bias without Borders

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