The actress Geena Davis is expanding her crusade for better roles for women and girls in film and TV by shining a light on how the entertainment industry typically portrays bankers as white male villains motivated by greed.
Davis, the founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, told a group of female bankers on Thursday that the public is getting a distorted view of the banking industry, while women are rarely seen in anything but supporting roles.
"Viewers are getting a very narrow representation of the various jobs that women have in the banking industry from the entertainment media," said Davis, who spoke at an "Honoree Roundtable" event honoring the Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance.
The Geena Davis Institute, at Mount St. Mary's University in Los Angeles, released a study that found bankers are almost always portrayed as evil men.
Just eight of the top 100 films produced from 2006 to 2015, including "The Big Short," "Too Big to Fail" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," portrayed fictional characters who worked in banking and finance, the study found.
None of the films rendered banking as an industry based on merit, with bankers often depicted as benefiting from cronyism.
"Clearly there is a tremendous amount of negative stereotyping and bias about the banking industry in the entertainment media," Davis said. "All of the films portrayed industry in a negative light as either somewhat or very untrustworthy."
In films, women are six times more likely than men to be portrayed as an assistant to a banker, Davis said. Meanwhile, male characters are more than twice as likely as female ones to be shown as ambitious.
On one positive note, male characters were four times likelier to be portrayed as dishonest than female characters, the study found.
Davis said the unflattering stereotypes amounted to a "call to action" for her institute to share the study with writers, directors and "content creators" to encourage them to "consider more carefully their messaging and portrayals of this negative stereotyping in order to encourage more girls and women to pursue careers in banking. "
One profession that has been well represented by women in television is forensic science, which Davis called "The CSI Effect," referring to the TV show and other offshoots in which women are seen holding high-skill jobs in laboratories.
In real life, women now vastly outnumber men in forensic science, with colleges scrambling to come up with courses, Davis said, "because they saw it on TV."
"Research like this can have an enormous impact," she said. "Having data like this study along with tracking and measuring female roles has been absolutely key to our success in influencing change."