Eternal Thelma Louise badass Geena Davis got quite the pat on the back from Google for a job well done — and it came with dollar signs. With the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the mother of two has been crusading against alarming gender imbalance in children’s media (such as just 28% of characters in family feature films being female, along with 38.9% in prime time and 30.8% in kidâ€™s shows). Which is precisely why Google named Ms. Davis the recipient of a $1.2 million Google Global Impact grant to further such important research for the kiddies.
Forbes reports that Geena Davis didn’t give things like slim female representation in media (and the hypersexualization of those characters) a second thought until her daughter Alizeh was born in 2002:
â€śUntil then I had no idea that there was such a huge gender gap in the programming weâ€™re creating for and showing young children in the United States,â€ť she says. â€śI was floored. Not only are there far fewer female characters than there are male, but the hyper sexualization of those characters is outrageous.â€ť When she took her theory to the Hollywood community she was shut down: â€śDirectors, producers and studio heads invariably told me that this was a problem that had been fixed long ago.â€ť…â€śPlaying so many characters that have resonated with women heightened my awareness of how female characters are portrayedâ€”or more frequently not portrayedâ€”in Hollywood,â€ť she says…
But Geena was not deterred and slapped together the sorely needed Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2004. According to Forbes, Geena’s Institute “has become the leader in research on gender depiction in the media” in the eight years following its founding. And because Geena is super connected to the film industry like that, she has reportedly been making “real strides” in diminishing on-screen stereotyping and educating others on the need for empowering female characters for kids of both genders.
Googleâ€™s director of charitable giving and advocacy, Jacqueline Fuller, says that Geena’s latest crop of research earned her the grant. But Google and Geena apparently also have a shared mission given that Google is also concerned with getting more girls on that lovely, lovely STEM path. Therefore, the tech company is highly concerned with how female characters are portrayed in the media:
“Sometimes in looking for projects and organizations to fund we begin with a problem,â€ť Fuller told me. â€śWe had heard the statistics about family films and the representation of women and were struck by that dearth. As Google has been to interested in encouraging young women to pursue STEM careers it was clear to us that if girls arenâ€™t seeing women portrayed in those professionsâ€”as scientists, doctors, computer scientistsâ€”it would only compound the problem.â€ť
With a ton more funding in 2013, Geena already has Institute plans for that Google cash. The mother is looking to put that $1.2 million dollars to developing sharper tools by which to analyze gender depiction on screen, specifically with software. Global expansion is also reportedly on the horizon.
Go, Geena, go!