It gave me great pleasure to deliver my keynote address at the Women with the Wave: High Level Forum on Digital Inclusion of Women and Girls in the beautiful city of Seoul.
It was an opportunity to share a few personal stories of experiences that has led me down new paths – paths that were not part of my original plan and the impact they would have on my life.
I’ve spent most of my adult life advocating for women and girls.
About eight years ago, I launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and its programming arm, called “See Jane.”
I did so because I wanted to establish one very specific thing; how many female characters are there in children’s media?
When I started watching children’s programs with my then-two-year-old daughter, Alizeh, I was stunned to see that there seemed to be far more male characters than female characters in most, if not all children’s programs targeted at young people.
I checked with my associates and industry leaders and no one seemed to be aware of the serious gender imbalance we’re feeding kids through the images they see.
My Institute has sponsored the largest research analysis ever done into the content of movies and children’s television programs in the United States. The research project was conducted at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, under the supervision of Dr. Stacy Smith.
The results were stunning.
At the dawn of a new millennium – when half of the global population is female – the message being sent to children is that women and girls do not take up half of the space in the world.
This stark gender inequality in media aimed at children is of significant importance to our discussions on Women and Girls in ICTs.
TV and film can wield enormous influence on young children as they develop a sense of their role in society as well as forming ideas about career choices. Our research reveals that females are missing from critical occupational sectors including technology.
We know when girls see characters engaging in un-stereotyped activities, it can heighten their likelihood to pursue careers in ICT and other related technology fields. If they can see it, they can be it!
So, what can we do to improve the status of girls and increase their participation in ICTs?
I’m delighted to be one of the champions of ITU’s recently launched ‘Tech Needs Girls’ campaign.
This is a global initiative in the area of education that aims to encourage girls to play a much more substantive role in the technology sector, including by promoting women in ICT careers.
The time for change is now.
This is an abbreviated version of Geena Davis speech delivered at the Women with the Wave conference in Seoul, Korea. The full speech can be found here.
Geena Davis is an official partner of UN Women in a global effort to change the way media represents women and girls worldwide. She is ITU’s special envoy for women and girls in the field of information and communication technology.