It’s no secret that the male to female ratio of superheroes is overwhelming. According to one recent estimate, just 26.7 percent of all DC and Marvel characters are female and only 12 percent all mainstream superhero comics have female protagonists. Crazy, right?
With the overwhelming success of the movie Wonder Woman it’s obvious that the world is craving more female superheroes for a variety of reasons. According to a recent study, one of those is that when girls see female superheroes kicking butt, it actually boosts their self-confidence.
The joint study, "SuperPowering Girls: Female Representation in the Sci-Fi/Superhero Genre," was conducted by BBC America and the Women’s Media Center. Researchers surveyed 2,431 girls and boys between the ages of 5 to 19, finding that every demographic wanted more women leads in sci-fi and superheroes movies and television shows. Yes, guys want to see more dominant female role models too. And these superheroes also have a mental health benefit for our young ladies, making them feel more confident.
"If you can't see her, you can't be her," BBC America president Sarah Barnett said in a statement. "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 study also found that 23 percent less teenage girls are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers than teen boys, and that a third of teens agree that girls don’t have as many opportunities as boys to be leaders. Even worse, is that teen girls believe that they are significantly less likely than boys to describe themselves as confident, brave and heard. Sad, right? While we appear to have come so far, the road ahead of us is still long.
"We know that representation matters, as evidenced by this report," Women's Media Center President Julie Burton 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."
Until more female superheroes land on the big and small screens, this study should serve as a reminder that female role models do make a difference when it comes to self-confidence — and exposing your children to them will benefit them regardless of gender.