By Pilar Stella Ingargiola
Geena Davis speaking at the CGI panel. Credit: Adam Schultz / Clinton Global Initiative
As part of the recently Clinton Global Initiative summit in New York, there was a heavy focus was on empowering women and girls through economic empowerment, violence reduction, health and environmental equity.
A session on Day Three on Designing Technologies for Economic Empowerment of Women and Girls featured panelists including Geena Davis who recently founded The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Neil Bellefeuille of The Paradigm Project , Toshi Nakamura of The Kopernik and Dr. Angel Cabrera, President of Thunderbird School of Global Management with Chelsea Clinton as the moderator.
Davis’s research with The Institute is the only of its kind exploring gender inequality in portrayals by the media and may serve as a “a wake-up call” to educate Hollywood on the negative images and stereotypes that media promotes of women and girls.
Research found that there is only one female for every three males portrayed in the media and crowd scenes include only 17% women as compared with 83% men.
Not only is the representation of women imbalanced, but their portrayal as Davis noted is “sidelined and hypersexualized.” The study found that there is the same percentage of nakedness portrayed in G rated shows as R rated shows.
There are few to no women portrayed in jobs, with over 81% of jobs held by men in the media. “Women serve as eye candy,” said Davis, rather than being portrayed in business, law, medicine and other professions. She explained that for women and girls, “If they can see it, they can be it.” So if there are more positive images and role models of women in media, then more women can see themselves in those roles and the more “acceptable” it can be to men as well. If not, then it leaves few to no models of what is possible.
With 80% of the media consumed worldwide created in the U.S., there is a need to shift this “narrow stereotyping and hyper sexualization.” As Davis emphasized, “We can use media to cure media.” That is, media from this narrow perspective limits the ways in which the public – both men and women – see women. The more TV girls watch the more they think they can’t achieve what they want and the more boys watch, the more likely they are to be sexist. Davis’ institute seeks to raise awareness for Hollywood and beyond to help make the case for a shift in the portrayal of women and girls.
Cabrera from Thunderbird highlighted the nuance of the power of narratives. That is, that not only the images we project, but the language we use furthers the pervasive stereotypes.
For example, Cabrera explained that even terminology such as ‘microentrepreneurs,’ being used predominantly for women entrepreneurs is “condescending.” “In the U.S. we would call these start ups,” but with women and global entrepreneurs we call them “microentrepreneurs.” Cabrera reiterated the need to be conscientious not only in our images but also in our language and education of entrepreneurs.
Davis further emphasized the critical opportunity that this research provides to educate and empower Hollywood and the media to turn the corner in shifting the images and opportunities for women that can truly translate to economic empowerment.
The Clinton Global Initiative is an annual conference that brings together philanthropists and world leaders to inspire, connect and forge solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Since it was established in 2005, nearly 150 current and former heads of state, 18 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of CEOs, heads of foundations, nonprofits and major philanthropists have made nearly 2,000 commitments impacting over 180 countries, the lives of over 300 million people, and commitments upwards of $60 billion.
---The author, Pilar Stella Ingargiola, MPH, is the CEO & Founder of OneGiving (www.onegiving.com), a global organization that empowers, inspires and connects people in giving to create change on the planet. Pilar is an author, speaker and social entrepreneur who has been working towards social change and making a difference on the planet through every endeavor she has embarked on over the past 15 years.