Geena Davis Institute’s Historic Finding Leading Characters in Children’s TV Reach Gender Parity

LOS ANGELES, CA – With the Fall television season underway, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University is thrilled to report a historic achievement, female leads/co-leads has reached gender parity in top children’s television programming.  The See Jane 2019 report, examined the 25 top Nielsen-rated children’s television programs watched by kids ages 2-13. The report also analyzed representation in the 100 most popular children’s films rated G, PG, and PG-13.

“We’re thrilled that our media ratings data could support the development of the See Jane 2019 and are proud of our longstanding relationship with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender In Media. Diversity and inclusion are essential to everything we do at Nielsen, and it’s important to us that our data can help facilitate greater awareness about parity and equity in diversifying who consumers see represented on television. We’re encouraged by the findings from the See Jane 2019 report for gender parity, and we look forward to continuing to see how the GD-IQ tool raises awareness and change in the industry,” said Megan Clarken, Chief Commercial Officer, Nielsen Global Media.

Institute Founder and Chair, Academy Award Winning Actor Geena Davis noted, “This study is critically important because the stories we tell in entertainment media can reinforce harmful stereotypes and send a distinct message about who matters most in our culture.” Davis added, “We don’t want to change the world; we just want our entertainment to reflect the world as it is — which is half female and incredibly diverse. This is completely doable. Our motto is: ‘If She Can See It, She Can Be It.’”

Using the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ), the report found that in 2018, female characters averaged 55.3% of screen time and 50.3% of speaking time in children’s television programming. GD-IQ research also revealed that screen time for female characters in these shows exceeded the female composition of the population in the United States which currently stands at 51%.

In children’s TV:

  • female characters are more likely to be depicted in leadership roles than male characters (45.5% compared to 41.4%)
  • female and male characters were equally likely to be shown as having an occupation or being in a STEM field
  • Characters of color are more likely to be shown as intelligent than white characters (16.4 percentage points).

However, a pattern of underrepresentation also prevails. For example, female characters on children’s television shows are seven times more likely to be shown in revealing clothing than male characters (8.9% compared to 1.2%). Only 26.1% of leading characters on children’s television are people of color even though they make up 38% of the U.S. population. The report also found that characters with disabilities and LGBTQ+ characters were virtually non-existent.

Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Institute added, “The bottom line is that despite the progress we are seeing, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people with disabilities are still marginalized across kid’s content. Content creators can improve onscreen representations overnight by making sure that the worlds they are creating look like the real world in terms of whose stories are told, and by presenting marginalized characters in ways that allow them to be fully human.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Study

This report is unique in that it is the first to combine in-depth studies of children’s film and television programs for comparison. It is also unique in the use of the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ), the only software tool in existence with the ability to measure screen and speaking time using automation. This revolutionary tool was developed by GDIGM at Mount Saint Mary’s University and funded by Google.org. The GD-IQ, which incorporates machine learning technology, was designed by Dr. Shrikanth Narayanan and his team of researchers at the University of Southern California’s Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL), along with Dr. Caroline Heldman. Lastly, the research team is comprised of mostly researchers with Ph.D.’s who have extensive experience in content analysis. The coding process employs a unique coding method—double coding—where multiple experts review the same content, which produces greater validity and reliability than other media studies.

Methodology

The method used to produce the data in this report is content analysis, an approach that is ideal for systematically analyzing the content of communications. The unit of analysis for the automated coding tool is character gender and character race, and the unit of analysis for hand coding is character.

Television

The television/streaming dataset includes a total of 3,810 leading, supporting, and minor characters in the top 25 television shows of 2018 for children ages two to six, and the top 25 shows for children ages seven to thirteen. The most watched programs were identified using Nielsen rankings, and include live-action and animation. The report generated a representative sample that considered the number of episodes for each show for the season.

Film

The family film dataset includes 3,093 total characters in the top 100 family films of 2018 (rated G, PG, or PG-13). The top family films of 2018 were identified using data from Variety and include live action and animation.

About the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM)

Founded by Academy Award®-winning actor Geena Davis, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University is the only research-based organization working directly with media and entertainment companies with cutting-edge research, education and advocacy programs to dramatically improve how girls and women are represented in media targeting children 11 and under. For more information visit: seejane.org

ABOUT NIELSEN

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IF SHE CAN SEE IT, SHE CAN BE IT