24 JULY 2015

From 2007 to 2012, only 30 per cent of the speaking characters in the top-selling 500 movies were women.

But how gender is represented on screen really does matter. People form their expectations of what women can achieve partly from how they’re represented in film and TV.

Popular characters have a huge effect on what people feel they’re capable of doing. Which is why it’s worrying that you are less likely to see women in powerful jobs on screen.

When you do the maths on every film released in 2014, women come out five times less likely to be doctors, thirteen times less likely to be lawyers and judges, and sixteen times less likely to be professors and academics. And only three female characters were political leaders.

On the plus side, research shows that women who see strong female characters on screen do go on to have less stereotypical views about gender roles . Put simply, awesome, empowered female characters like Erin Brockovich and Katniss Everdeen can change your views, and therefore your life. There just aren’t enough of them.

It’s bad enough that adults are so affected by this. But think about what messages children and young people are getting from their on-screen heroes and heroines as they grow up.

Popular characters have a powerful effect on a child’s perception of what they are capable of doing. So seeing strong, powerful women shaping their own destinies on screen helps girls realise that they’re capable of doing the same in their own lives.

We know that companies like Disney are making moves to empower their princesses and we’re all for it. But we’ve still got a long way to go. Placing independent, non-stereotypical female characters in the spotlight in hit films like Frozen leads to other, similar representations of women in media.

That’s why Do Something UK is rallying the UK’s young people to demand more empowered female characters on screen.

Our #RealPrincess campaign asks young people to draw a new movie princess with unique traits and goals which are not about fulfilling gender stereotypes (and don’t include finding a Prince Charming!). We’ll be sharing the results with Disney to encourage the company to do its bit to empower more on-screen heroines.

By designing their own alternatives, our members are showing Disney how important this issue is, and we hope to spark more people to look out for and challenge on-screen stereotypes.

You can join in with #RealPrincess until 14 August.

Do Something UK is a programme of vInspired the UK’s leading youth volunteering charity that believes that young people can change the world. We offer opportunities for anyone under 26 to do great things through volunteering and social action.

Read our related blog on cinema’s missing leading ladies

Georgia Powell, Marketing and Communications Executive at vInspired ABOUT AUTHOR

Georgia Powell is Marketing and Communications Executive at vInspired