04/08/2014 04:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Kendall Jenner Stars as a Computer Programmer? Yes, In My Dreams: Why the Female Creative Economy in Video Matters in STEM Fields


While the health of the female creative economy in Hollywood seems to matter little to the prospects for women in business, finance, political, and STEM fields, the two are inextricably linked. The video-based female creative economy of women writing, producing, and directing for film, TV, and web is something to which we are all exposed and influenced by, especially our daughters. And what they're seeing is pretty, but that's about it.

It is not a secret that women are woefully underrepresented behind the camera in Hollywood. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7 percent of directors, 13 percent of writers, and 20 percent of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 men working behind-the-scenes to every woman. Another irritating factoid: In the 1990s, women wrote 14 percent of the spec scripts sold and only 9 percent in the 2000s. We are actually going backwards.

I probably don't need to rattle off statistics about the abysmal state of female representation in front of the camera but here are a few just for fun: From 2006 to 2009, not a single female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5 percent of all working characters are male and 19.5 percent are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50 percent of the workforce. Even among the top-grossing G-rated family films, girl characters are out-numbered by boys three-to-one. That ratio has been the same since the end of World War II.

Why this matters:

More women writing, producing, and directing means more opportunities for realistic and positive female characters. There is a causal relationship between positive female portrayals and female content creators involved in production. In fact, when even one female writer works on a film, there is a 10.4 percent difference in screen time for female characters. Imagine what could happen with two of them! Sadly, men outnumber women in key production roles by nearly 5 to 1. With more women in production and writing roles, dynamic female characters would emerge for our girls to emulate. No longer reduced to sex kittens, mothers, and funny sidekicks, girls would see more possibilities for their own futures.

Imagine if Kendall Jenner, who was part of TIME Magazine's Most Influential Teens in 2013, was cast in a role as a computer programmer. How many young girls would want to learn to code? Scoff if you will, but it's true. Your daughters are watching her. And they're trying to emulate her. And the more they see her, Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lawrence, and other teen girl favorites in roles that emphasize their intellect and contributions more than their appearance and romantic viability, the more young girls will value their own.

All facts are supported by research conducted by Stacy Smith, Ph.D. at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.