Who would you rather have save your life? A 15-year-old boy in skin-tight Lycra, who can shoot sticky webs out of his wrists? Or a tall, strong, billowing-haired Amazon woman with bullet-deflecting jewelry and a magic lasso?
(If you said Spider-Man, stop reading this and just go away.)
While Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Jessica Jones, and Supergirl are paving the way for better hero diversity, girls still lack on-screen female role models, according to research.
A new study by BBC America and the Women’s Media Center confirms that representation can positively affect a child’s confidence, career trajectory, and overall self-image.
In on an online survey administered over the summer, more than 2,400 participants — girls and boys ages 5 to 19 — expressed a desire for more female and non-white champions in the sci-fi and superhero genre.
“If you can’t see her, you can’t be her,” BBC America President Sarah Barnett said in a statement.
“It’s time to expand what gets seen, and we hope this report will contribute to sparking change in the stories we see on screen,” she continued. “With greater representation of female heroes in the sci-fi and superhero genre, we can help superpower the next generation of women.”
This study was released three days before the sixth annual International Day of the Girl (Oct. 11), aimed at raising awareness of issues like education, nutrition, and child marriage, as well as legal and medical rights.
The data speaks for itself: Teen girls are significantly less likely than their male counterparts to describe themselves as confident, brave, and heard. These challenges are considerably more pronounced for girls of color.
“At this time of enormous, sweeping, social change, it’s important that television and film provide an abundance of roles and role models for diverse girls and young women,” Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, said.
BBC America also reported a 23-point gender gap between teen boys and girls interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.
“We know that representation matters, as evidenced by this report,” Burton added. “Our research found that female sci-fi and superhero characters help bridge the confidence gap for girls, making them feel strong, brave, confident, inspired, positive, and motivated.”
This alliance with Women’s Media Center is part of BBC America’s recent “Galaxy of Women” initiative, which spotlights ladies across the network—from Orphan Black‘s sestras to Killing Eve‘s assassin and spy to Doctor Who‘s pioneering first female Doctor.