Last month at our annual conference in Atlanta, Geena Davis shed light on the drastic under representation of women in the media and other spheres of influence within society. Her research found that while females made up 50 percent of the population, and the current workforce, only 19.5 percent of characters in G-rated movies from 2006-2009 were female. Of this small group of female characters, many fell into unfair stereotypes or were overly sexualized. She also noted that women pervasively make up 17 percent of the represented population in a number of areas including congress, film narration, and crowd scenes. If media, the voice of society, under represents women while promoting false stereotypes, what does that mean for you?
An international study examining the role that gender stereotypes play in the perceptions of male and female entrepreneurs, offers some insights. Researchers “found that entrepreneurship is typically seen as a masculine field; both men and women see entrepreneurship as a male-typed occupation.” This perception deters women from entrepreneurship “because resource providers (e.g., lenders, suppliers, customers) and men in their lives (their partner, husband, father, and/or sons) do not associate entrepreneurship with feminine characteristics and, consequently may not support them in starting their own business.” Despite these hurdles, there were 8.1 million women-owned firms (13.1 million with the inclusion of equally-owned firms), a 50 percent increase since 1997, according to American Express OPEN.
The success of WPO members should not just be measured in revenues. These outstanding women have succeeded despite constricting financial and social limitations. Their success serves as a testament of just how wrong stereotypes can be and why organizations such as Geena’s are so important for future generations of women and girls.