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Media and confidence - problems for women in business and our children

06 May 2014

Women in Media

2013 03 08 Geena Davis Speaking

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has amassed all sorts of statistics around women and how undervalued, underplayed and mostly hidden they are by the mainstream media, including print, film, TV, online. (Founder Geena Davis, above)

For example in the paper “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2013”, by Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D, the author found overall, 17% of characters were leaders. Of those characters, a larger proportion of male characters (21%) than female characters (8%) were portrayed as leaders.

The Representation Project’s film Miss Representation is another expose of women in media. It finds that: “In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.”

Is it any wonder then that the majority of Americans do not think Hillary Clinton is qualified to lead the country.

Jane Fonda Actor And Activist Founder Womens Media Center

The Women’s Media Center was founded in 2005 as a non-profit progressive women's media organisation by Jane Fonda (above), Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem (the feminist, author and activist turns 80 this year). The reports the centre puts together on women’s portrayal and the positions they hold in the media are fascinating.

For example: There have been three women to have graced the cover of TIME Magazine’s “Man of the Year” issue in their own right and none since TIME changed the title in 1999 to “Person of the Year”. The three are: Wallis Simpson, 1936; Elizabeth II, 1952; Corazon Aquino, 1986.

It’s no wonder girls grow up lacking in confidence.

Competence V Confidence

The Atlantic published a piece called ‘The Confidence Gap’ by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman which looks at how women’s lack of confidence is tantamount to failure. If you don’t try you don’t get… and you certainly lose confidence.

“…to become more confident, women need to stop thinking so much and just act.”



Getting involved is overrated

In the New York Times in early April an article appeared under the title “Parental Involvement Is Overrated”. It was by Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris, two researchers who have uncovered some startling findings around the benefits of being involved in the education of your children.

Most parents appear to be ineffective at helping their children with homework. Even more surprising to us was that when parents regularly helped with homework, kids usually performed worse. 

Do our findings suggest that parents are not important for children’s academic success? Our answer is no. We believe that parents are critical for how well children perform in school, just not in the conventional ways that our society has been promoting. The essential ingredient is for parents to communicate the value of schooling, a message that parents should be sending early in their children’s lives and that needs to be reinforced over time. But this message does not need to be communicated through conventional behavior, like attending PTA meetings or checking in with teachers.

The authors’ thoughts (like the ones quoted above) got a lot of people thinking. In fact, 656 readers actually took the time to comment. The thoughts of the readers add real depth to the Robinson and Harris piece and flagged any number of topics for further articles. The authors, themselves, could very well have found their next decade’s worth of research projects.

In defence of the wild child

Photo From Nonconformist Kids In School

Does the movement toward self-regulation in kids at school mean we will eventually be left with graduates who can only sit inside the box, lack imagination and worry they may have something wrong with them?