At the recently held 4th Annual AT&T Shape Conference, Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis joined Big Bang Theory actor Mayim Bialik onstage as part of the panel titled, The Scully Effect Is Real.
The panel not only discussed how gender parity in media can create social change, but also talked about the need for onscreen diversity in order to break stereotypes.
During the panel discussion, Geena Davis said that achieving gender parity on screen is simple, and it could happen overnight. “Just go through (the script) and cross out a bunch of male first names and put female first names. That’s all you have to do,” shared Davis.
The conversation was the result of a research conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The research found that women felt encouraged to pursue scientific, medical and engineering (STEM) careers because of X-Files’ character Dana Scully (essayed by Gillian Anderson) – a doctor and an FBI agent. Of the women surveyed in the study, 63 per cent of those working in a STEM field said Scully served as a role model for them while they were growing up.
“Bialik, who has a PhD in neuroscience, said that it was important on The Big Bang Theory to break stereotypes when portraying scientists and show that they can be happy socially as well as accomplished professionally,” reported The Hollywood Reporter.
“It turned out to be a lovely coincidence that we were showing the world a group of nerds and geeks, men and women who had successful social lives and interesting career lives and they weren’t afraid to be interested in the things they were interested in,” said Mayim Bialik. “Our show wasn’t big on diagnosis and medication, it was a show about a group of people just kind of being themselves in the science world, and that’s what my life and many of our lives are like.”
According to Bialik, seeing characters like Scully onscreen and having real-life mentors is crucial for young women to pursue careers in science, medicine and engineering. “I was raised in a climate where if you didn’t learn things as fast as the boys, it meant that it wasn’t for you. It’s important to have a mentor, to have someone that you can see is living the life of a scientist and also has a social life – all the things that the lone scientist in the laboratory stereotype doesn’t give us,” she added.
The panelists further said that all forms of diversity onscreen are necessary, pointing to films like Hidden Figures, which is about the key role a group of African-American women played in the U.S. space program, as leading the way for more complex stories on people of any gender or race.
At the event, Geena Davis shared that she thinks all forms of diversity need to be shown onscreen and also stressed on the fact that Hollywood isn’t as progressive thinking as it is perceived.
“As much as people think Hollywood is liberal and open-minded and progressive thinking, they’re doing a worse job of reflecting society than the abysmal numbers in real life,” Geena Davis said. “If we show it, it will happen in real life.”