13 Ways Females are Underrepresented, Stereotyped and Sexualized on Screen

A League of Their Own is one of my all time favorite movies and now its leading lady Geena Davis is paving the way for women and girls to have equal representation on screen.

Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate and influence the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping and creating a wide variety of female characters for entertainment targeting children 11 and under.

The Institute’s latest study revealed some very depressing findings in regards to women and girls on screen. Overall the study found that women and girls are not only largely absent on screen, but they are also stereotyped and sexualized.

Take a look at some of the study’s key findings.

Women and Girls Largely Absent on Screen

  • Females are not as prevalent as males on screen in popular media.
  • There are far fewer speaking characters that are females in family films (28.3%), prime-time programs (38.9%), and children shows (30.8%).
  • A large percentage of stories are “extremely” male centric, casting boys/men in 74% or more of speaking roles on television.
  • Children’s programs and comedy series are the most imbalanced genres in prime time, with less than a third of all on screen speaking characters coded as girls or women.

Women and Girls As “Eye Candy” on Screen

  • Females are far more likely than males to be depicted wearing sexy attire and showing exposed skin.
  • Females are far more likely to be referenced by another character as physically attractive.
  • Females are far more likely to appear thin on screen.

Women Hit Glass Ceiling On Screen

  • A higher percentage of male characters than female character are shown working in family films and prime-time shows.
  • Women only hold 20.3% of the total on screen occupations in family films, 34.4% of all jobs in prime-time programs, and represent 25.3% of those employed in children’s shows.
  • In family films and prime-time shows, only two women are shown in the executive office of major corporations (i.e. CEOs, CFOs, Presidents, VPs, and GMs).
  • In family films and prime-time shows, not one female character is depicted at the top of the financial sector, legal arena or journalism.
  • Not one speaking character plays a powerful American female political figure across 5,839 speaking characters in 129 family films.
  • Males are almost four times as likely as females to be shown on screen in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers.

Girls watch an average of seven hours of television every day. It is clear that they need more aspirational role models on screen to show them that women can succeed in leadership positions. Good thing there are places like the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media to make sure this happens.

Check out the Institute’s latest PSA If She Can See It, She Can Be It.

Related from Care2:

Girl Power! 10 Inspiring Young Girls Doing Amazing Things

6-Year-Old Girl Calls Out Board Game for Being Sexist

9-Year-Old Girl Impresses on the Football Field

Photo credit: Photo by oddharmonic used with a Creative Commons license.


Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins3 years ago

Looking at the article again, the problem seems to be that the research was done on "family shows/movies". Those have more of an old fasioned take on things.

Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins3 years ago

I have seen a lot of tv and film and A LOT have starred girls and women and they often are portrayed as superheroes, detectives, doctors, special agents, scientists, etc. They are complicated, opinionated, intelligent, capable characters.

The only shows I've seen that have portrayed females at all in an inferior way are sitcoms and romantic comedies.

Duane B.
.3 years ago

Why are girls watching an average of 7 hours of television a day? That's ridiculous! Get out and live a real life!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

side note.. no, we do not need to portray more obesity on tv. What the heck? For one, who would watch a show about overweight, unattractive, flat chested women? Exactly. No one. They put what the audience wants to see. If no one wanted to see what is out there, they would turn the tv off. consumers (and viewers) have the control here. So stop complaining and turn the shows off?

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

turn the tv off and get them out in the world. there. problem solved

Olga Lustosa
Olga Lustosa3 years ago

I had thought about it .

Ori M.
oriana M3 years ago

Hmm, the article complains that the majority of girls on tv are thin. What the hell was the majority size of girls in that video then??

Jennifer U.
Jennifer A3 years ago

Does anyone else see something wrong with the fact that girls watch an average of 7 hours of television a day?

Thomas Bridges
Thomas Bridges3 years ago

(continued) as many female secondary characters as male.
Is it bad that the females are often thin, occasionally beautiful enough to be used as eye-candy, or “sexualized,” whatever that means. Many actresses on TV are at least moderately attractive, and most have parts that treat them as conscious of their gender. If they are sexualized, blame Mother Nature. Would you prefer actresses who are fat and flat and indifferent to men? Producers work hard to make their dramas dramatic. They also want their shows to be watched. Would you prefer to watch actresses who were flat and flabby, and actors who were bald and paunchy?

Thomas Bridges
Thomas Bridges3 years ago

Under-represented? Well, I haven't seen any statistics, but my TV guide has lots of shows with only women named in the title, Pretty Little Liars and the like. I've seen a lot of TV shows with a leading lady carrying the show, with actresses like Bonita Granville, Pamela Sue Martin, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Garner, Kristen Bell, Tessie Santiago, Yancy Butler, Piper Perabo, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Geller, all names which come to mind unbidden. In many action-adventure shows the cast is mainly male, but with almost