British Consulate-General, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media Release STEM Representation Report

‘Closing the STEM Gender Gap’ shows disparity in depiction of women in STEM fields in UK children’s media.

NEW YORK – 8 FEBRUARY 2021: The British Consulate-General New York and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University published Closing the STEM Gender Gap: A Study of Gender & STEM Representations in UK Family Television today.

This first-ever study of the portrayal of women in STEM found that in the UK, men outnumber women three-to-one in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions (78 percent compared with 22 percent). Media are influential in shaping the values and career paths of young viewers. Understanding what messages girls, boys, and gender non-conforming kids are getting about STEM in their favourite TV shows is key to understanding whether this powerful medium is encouraging or discouraging girls from pursuing STEM.

This study, which assessed the depiction of STEM television characters based on gender identity, shows a continuing gender gap in UK family television–– and a marked juxtaposition between STEM character portrayals in the US and the UK.

Research found that female STEM characters in US content are far more likely to be depicted sacrificing their personal lives for work than STEM characters in the UK (42.9 percent compared with 5.5 percent).

Additionally, data showed that a greater percentage of female STEM characters in the UK are shown working collaboratively (87.3 percent compared with 64.0 percent) and helping others (83.2 percent compared with 64.0 percent) than female STEM characters in the US.

While the US has achieved gender parity for female lead characters in children’s television, and the percentage of female STEM characters is roughly equal in the US and the UK, the number of female STEM leads is higher in the UK compared to the US (39.3 percent and 37.1 percent, respectively).

On the findings, Geena Davis, Academy-Award winner and Founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media  said:

“Inspiring girls to pursue these subjects is extremely important, and fictional female STEM characters have been shown to be very impactful in that regard. As more and more jobs become tech-oriented, girls need to be positively introduced to the possibilities of STEM careers early on, to ensure that they have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.”

Despite years of programming from both the public and private sectors dedicated to more equitable representation, many of these findings highlighted show that there’s still much progress to be made

In the UK, male STEM characters still outnumber female STEM characters nearly two-to-one (60.7 percent compared with 39.3 percent), and this gap is more apparent with leading characters – 67.1 percent of whom are men.

Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States of America Dame Karen Pierce DCMG said:

“While the study highlights much good practice, it is clear there is still not enough diversity in children’s media. We need stronger action to ensure more equitable representation for women in STEM fields on our screens, so that we can inspire the next generation in to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Whilst it is clear that there is still inequality in representation, positive data was also gained. Notably, people of colour are well-represented as STEM characters in family television compared to the UK population (28.6% compared with 12.9%). Additionally, no gender differences are found with STEM expertise, STEM competence, or level of empowerment or intelligence by gender. This means that while more male STEM characters are leaders, men and women in STEM are equally likely to be shown as experts in STEM, competent in STEM, empowered in their STEM role, and highly intelligent.

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For more information, please contact:
Alex Stevenson, Deputy Head of Communications
Alex.Stevenson@fcdo.gov.uk

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