A study was commissioned by the BBC and the Women’s Media Center to research female representation in our society. What role does the presence, absence or voice of women play in our imaginations?
Whereas science fiction and the superhero world are dominated by men, the study entitled "SuperPowering Girls: Female Representation in the Sci-Fi/Superhero Genre" has revealed that both men and women would be delighted to see more women in leading roles in films and series. What's more, the study also showed that powerful female characters boost self-esteem.
Publicizing the research, the president of BBC America, Sarah Barnett issued a simple yet powerful message:
"It’s time to expand what gets seen, and we hope this report will contribute to sparking change in the stories we see on screen. With greater representation of female heroes in the sci-fi and superhero genre, we can help superpower the next generation of women."
Wonder Woman, a heroine for girls
In total, 2431 girls and boys aged between 5 and 19 years old were surveyed last summer. Among them, 65% of the girls confessed that they felt less represented than their male counterparts. They also indicated that their favorite heroine was Wonder Woman, while the boys preferred Batman.
Female characters have a stronger impact on girls than male heroes on boys. It is also interesting to note that ethnic minority female characters are even more important for girls from these minorities. The study revealed that young girls feel more confident when they see heroes who resemble them.
The study explains that opportunities and role models for women are limited, especially for women from ethnic minorities, and firmly states that women need powerful role models in order to see themselves as future leaders and innovators:
"We must encourage and support girls and young women to fulfill their greatest potential in a society which includes all representations equally."
Julie Burton, the president of the Women’s Media Center, concluded that the research shows that female characters and superheroes had helped girls to feel strong, brave, inspired, positive and motivated.