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Kids want to see more female superheroes, according to new study

Kids want to see more female superheroes, according to new study
Jodie Whittaker is the newest Doctor in "Doctor Who." (Sophie Mutevelian / BBC)

Most kids want to see more female superheroes and superheroes that look like them.

According to a new study by the Women’s Media Center and BBC America released Monday, most girls believe there are not enough female role models, strong female characters and relatable female characters on film and television. Both girls and boys agree that they’d like to see more female superheroes on-screen.

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The study, “Superpowering Girls: Female Representation in the Sci-Fi/Superhero Genre,” is the first in a series examining how on-screen representation affects children’s confidence and self-esteem. Among the findings are that teen girls, especially girls of color, are significantly less likely than teen boys to describe themselves as confident, brave and heard.

The study also found that seeing female sci-fi and superhero characters has a greater effect on girls than when boys see male sci-fi and superhero characters.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Added Sarah Barnett, president of BBC America, “If you can’t see her, you can’t be her. 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. With greater representation of female heroes in the sci-fi and superhero genre, we can help superpower the next generation of women.”

The report adds that despite recent efforts to boost women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), there is still a large gap between teen girls and boys when it comes to interest in STEM careers.

Additionally, 1 in 3 teens surveyed agreed that girls have fewer leadership opportunities than boys.

The study was conducted by surveying 2,431 kids ages 10 to 19 and parents of children ages 5 to 9 (who answered on behalf of their child). The report is a part of BBC America’s #GalaxyOfWomen initiative, which aims “to change how we see women, how we listen to women, and how we experience them across media and culture to more accurately and authentically reflect the audience.”

The publication of the study’s results come one day after BBC America premiered the first episode of “Doctor Who” featuring a female Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker.

You can read the report here.

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