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A new study adds numerical proof that representation matters as kids want more female heroes

While it has been clear for a long time, the BBC & Women's Meida Center's study adds research to back up the calls for more representaive characters in media

Marvel Studios' CAPTAIN MARVEL
Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)

If all the women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and others telling you that representation matters hasn’t been enough proof that it matters, the BBC and the Women’s Media Center has numbers now.

Together the two organizations have done the research and released the results of the  Superpowering Girls: Female Representation in the Sci-Fi/Superhero Genre study, the first in a series centered on the impact of representation on those between the ages of 5 to 19. As mentioned above and something most could guess, the results show that young people want more characters that represent them.

Conducted online, the quantitative survey gained responses from 2,431 participants between the ages of 10-19 and from the parents of children aged 5-9 who answered on behalf of their children. There was an even gender split in the research and in accordance with the U.S. Census Bureau data the survey was representative of ethnicity and region.


As shown in the above graphic, girls were overwhelmingly found to state that there not enough role models, relatable or strong characters of their gender in the various media they consume.

“At this time of enormous, sweeping, social change, it’s important that television and film provide an abundance of roles and role models for diverse girls and young women. We know that representation matters, as evidenced by this report,” said President of the Women’s Media Center Julia Burton. “Our research found that female sci-fi and superhero characters help bridge the confidence gap for girls, making them feel strong, brave, confident, inspired, positive, and motivated.”

Sadly, and not surprising with current events, teenage girls were found to be significantly less likely to describe themselves as confident, brave, and heard with young girls of color have even significantly lower numbers. Also unsurprising and sad was the results where a third of the teens surveyed agreed that women have far fewer leadership opportunities than men and are far less likely to attempt to enter into STEM-related job fields despite efforts to try and boost this number.

“If you can’t see her, you can’t be her,” BBC America President Sarah Barnett added. “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.”

While the likes of Wonder Woman, Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, Doctor Who, Supergirl, and others have begun to make changes and make an impact there is still a long road ahead to reach a spot where the numbers between the various groups seeking representation are equal or at least very close together and all on the lower side of the scale.



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