On the eve of this year’s Oscar Awards ceremony — which is being dogged along with the film industry with negative publicity for doing little to address the sector’s lack of diversity -- new global research has been unveiled that concludes that female role models in film and TV are hugely influential in driving women to improve their lives.
The study was a joint effort by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and WPP agency J. Walter Thompson. Davis, the well-known actress, founded her namesake institute in 2004.
The new research finds that 90% of women globally feel that female role models in film or TV are important, 61% said female role models in film and TV have been influential in their lives and 58% said that women have been inspired to be more ambitious or assertive.
The survey of 4,300 women in nine countries (Brazil, China, India Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Russia, Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.) also showed that one in nine women globally -- rising as high as one-in-four in Brazil -- said that positive female role models had given them the courage to leave an abusive relationship.
However, 53% of women globally think there is a lack of female role models in film and TV, 74% said they wished they had seen more female role models growing up and 80% said that women should have a louder voice when it comes to cultural influence.
Commenting on the findings Davis stated: “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. 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 onscreen. How do we encourage a lot more girls to aspire to lead? By casting droves of women in [science, technology engineering and mathematics], politics, law and other professions today in movies.”
Rachel Pashley, global planner at J. Walter Thompson, stated: “The combination of existing research and the new findings from our global research prove that the lack of female role models on film and TV has been trivialised for too long -- the statistics around abusive relationships in particular brings the importance of the issue into stark contrast. This is a real issue with real societal impact around the globe.”
The full research report will be available through the Davis’ Institute in March.