Gender in Media: Lunch with Madeline Di Nonno

Madeline Di Nonno speaking at the 2 December Melbourne Press Club event (54:46)

"We’re media. We can do what we want,” CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media Madeline Di Nonno told a Press Club audience on 2 December.

“Let's paint a picture of how we want to see the world and let life imitate art."

The Institute, which was set up when Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis noticed a lack of female characters in the children’s programs her daughter was watching, is a research-based organisation working to improve gender balance and influence the creation of more diverse female characters in entertainment media.

It takes a data-driven approach to arguing the case for change, demonstrating through research using its “inclusion quotient tool” that male characters appear on screen twice as much as female ones in mainstream entertainment media and speak twice as often.

Di Nonno also cited research across the film industries of 10 countries which found that females aged 13 to 39 were subject to the same degree of sexualisation in all of them, and that older female characters were absent.

Disturbing as the statistics are, they do not signal an evil conspiracy, Di Nonno said, but rather that both men and women are subject to unconscious gender bias.

Photos from the event

Surprisingly, perhaps, films with female leads actually made nearly 16% more on average at the box office than those with male leads.

The Institute has made impressive progress, Di Nonno said, on educating media industry executives to follow simple strategies such as questioning whether a male character could be female, including more females as background characters, and hiring more women crew.

On news media, she said journalists should ask themselves what percentage of their work is telling female stories. 


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