Representation of Women STEM Characters in Media
Women have experienced rapid advances in many professional roles in recent decades, but they remain underrepresented in STEM professions. The purpose of this report is to better understand why and to examine the role of entertainment media in contributing to this underrepresentation. Produced through a collaboration between the Lyda Hill Foundation and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, we conducted a content analysis of STEM characters in entertainment media and a nationally representative survey of girls and young women. These two methods enable us to assess how STEM professions are represented in media, and how these representations (and messages from society more broadly) affect girls’ perceptions of and participation in STEM.
Men STEM characters significantly outnumbered women STEM characters in film, television, and streaming content from 2007 - 2017 (62.4% compared to 37.1%). This sends the message to girls and women that STEM professions are primarily for men.
Women STEM Leaders
The percentage of female STEM characters that are portrayed as leaders in STEM fluctuated over the past decade, but is following a downward trend. This study demonstrates that media is influential in shaping attitudes toward STEM, but content producers continue to disproportionately represent STEM characters as white men, especially leading characters.
Important factors that encouraged girls/women to pursue STEM were the presence of role models and support from teachers, friends, and family. Having this type of support improves both attitudes toward STEM and intention to go into a STEM major/field and should therefore be increased and amplified.