Geena Davis and her quiet role in gender equality

Source: Bizwomen, Pacific Business News.

Courtesy YWCA of Greater Cincinnati Actress Geena Davis has been playing a pivotal role in pushing for gender equality in children's programming.

Courtesy YWCA of Greater Cincinnati
Actress Geena Davis has been playing a pivotal role in pushing for gender equality in children’s programming.

You may know Geena Davis from her roles in “Thelma & Louise” or “A League of Their Own” but for a long time, she’s been backing research and advocacy on women in media. This weekend, she’s hosting the second annual Bentonville Film Festival showcasing female directors, screenwriters and themes.

It continues though Sunday, May 8.

It’s just the latest endeavor by the Oscar-winning actress to bring focus to the accomplishments of women in Hollywood.

The festival, continuing until Sunday in the northwestern Arkansas city of Bentonville, includes 34 movies and documentaries. Winning films in the festival will receive a distribution deal, getting any one of them closer to success.

Davis is the founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University, the only research-based group working with media companies on gender balance in front of and behind the camera.

Unwittingly, Davis was making history for women in movies. “I had subconsciously been choosing projects where the woman was in charge of her own destiny,” she told Vulture. But as early at 1984, Davis was taking a stand when she wrote an episode of the workplace comedy “Buffalo Bill,” in which the female head of a local TV station rebelled against a cheesy beauty contest.

She founded the institute in 2007. Three years earlier, she was watching TV and videos with her young daughter and noticed that many of the characters in the shows were boys.

It drew Davis to bankroll research into gender imbalance in children’s programming with the University of Southern California. In one survey, 30 percent of the characters in 36 shows were female, and only 20 percent even had a girl narrating.

This has spawned other research into TV shows, and work behind the scenes, including the festival, funded in part by Wal-mart, which is based in Bentonville.