The Scully Effect

It is known that characters from film, television and now social media, shape our everyday life in significant ways.  

An incredible report by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media examined the role and influence of X-File character Dana Scully on women pursuing STEM education and careers along with attitudes toward STEM.

In the case of the “Scully Effect,” entertainment media influences what career options girls and women can envision for themselves.

 Here is what they found:

  1. Attitudes Toward STEM

Scully Spurs STEM Interest Women who are medium/heavy watchers of The X-Files hold more positive views of STEM than non/light watchers, and several survey questions link this directly to the influence of Scully’s character

  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of women who are familiar with Dana Scully say she increased their belief in the importance of STEM.
  • A greater percentage of medium/heavy viewers of The X-Files strongly believe that young women should be encouraged to study STEM than non/light viewers (56% compared to 47%).
  • Medium/heavy viewers are significantly more likely to strongly agree with the statement “I would encourage my daughter/granddaughter to enter a STEM field” than non/light viewers (53% compared to 41%).
  • Medium/heavy viewers are more likely to strongly agree with the statement “If I could go back and do it again, I would have studied or worked in an industry that is STEM” than non/light viewers (27% compared to 17%).
2.  Working in STEM: Scully Inspires Scientists

Women who regularly watch The X-Files are more likely to express interest in STEM, major in a STEM field in college, and work in a STEM profession than other women in the sample.

  •  Among women who are familiar with Scully’s character, half (50%) say Scully increased their interest in STEM.
  • Medium/heavy viewers are 43% more likely than other women to have considered working in a STEM field than non/light viewers (40% compared to 28%).
  • Medium/heavy viewers are 27% more likely to have studied STEM than non/light viewers (28% compared to 22%).
  • Medium/heavy viewers are 50% more likely to have worked in a STEM field than non/light viewers (24% compared to 16%).

 3. Role Model: Scully Seen as Smart and Strong

Among women who are familiar with Scully’s character, 91% say she is a role model for girls and women.

  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of women that work in STEM say Dana Scully served as their role model.
  • Among women who are familiar with Scully’s character, 63% say Scully increased their confidence that they could excel in a male-dominated profession.
  • Nine out of 10 (91%) women who are familiar with Scully’s character say she stands out as being a strong female character on television.
  • Women in the sample were asked about various attributes of Scully’s character. The most frequently used words to describe her were “smart,” “intelligent,” and “strong” (see word cloud below).

 

“The findings of this study confirm what previous research has established, that entertainment media is influential in shaping life choices. It is easy to dismiss entertainment media as simply entertaining, but half a century of social science research reveals that the characters, images, and storylines in media shape our everyday lives in profound ways.”

~The Geena Davis Institute:

“If she can see it, she can be it”

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