Producers of TV programmes for children need to hire mow girls and women. TV shows with more diverse participants attract higher audience ratings than programs with less diverse casts but the lack of diversity continues, a study by US-based Geena David Institute on Gender in Media shows.
Female characters are about 44% of leads in new shows being made for kids, the study says.
- Female characters are underrepresented in animation. In new programming for children, 56.5% of animated characters are male and 43.2% are female.
- Characters of colour occupy a record number of leading roles.
- LGBTQIA+ and disabled representation remains very low.
- Disabled representation lacks racial diversity.
- Fat characters are much more often male than female. Fat characters are three times more likely to be male than female (72.5% compared with 27.5%), which means fat women and girls are far less likely to be cast in roles than fat men and boys.
Based on these findings about representation and portrayals in children’s programming, the report makes the following recommendations:
- Hire more girls, women and nonbinary people to voice nonhuman characters, like ghosts, aliens, monsters, and talking objects. Animated characters, especially those who are nonhuman, are mostly voiced by male actors.
- Cast girls and women in minor roles, too. The report finds steady representation of female characters in leading roles, which is helping to drive positive change toward gender parity on-screen. But girls/women still lag behind boys/men overall, and this is due in part to male characters occupying nearly 2 out of 3 minor roles.
- Increase the visibility of diverse queer characters. Queer characters (especially nonbinary characters) are more likely to be white and young.
- Increase the representation of disabled young people on-screen. About 4% of young people under 18 in the U.S. have a developmental disability, and nearly 20% have mental health issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, disabled representation is rare in children’s programming, and when it is shown, it’s more likely to be a disabled adult on-screen.
- Diversify live-action characters. The study finds more racial diversity among animated characters than live-action characters. Adding more live-action characters of colour increases the number of opportunities for actors of colour and increases the number of characters for young children of colour to relate to.
- Allow characters of different backgrounds to express themselves and talk about their feelings. Very few young characters were shown talking about their feelings.