Who Run the World? Not Girls in Film

How Google software is analyzing the gender gap in media representation 

GD-IQ is a new Google backed analytics tool that can detect how much screen time women and their male counterparts receive in films.

The software, which was developed by Google, Mount Saint Mary’s University and the University of Southern California, can identify the gender of the character present on screen (or speaking) through visual recognition and vocal analytics.  Using this data, the GD-IQ will then calculate the amount of screen time and speaking time each gender receives throughout the film.

GD-IQ studied the top 100 highest grossing, live action films across all genres from 2014-2015.  The only genre in which women appeared more than men was horror films. Even then, they had less of a speaking role and more of a “damsel in distress” role.  In all of the Oscar nominated films from 2015, women only made up 27% of the total speaking time.

This is especially interesting when correlated with other findings in the same study.  Films with a female lead grossed 15.8% more on average than those with male leads. However, even in films that bill a female lead, male co-stars get almost the same exact amount of screen time, despite their secondary role in the plot.

Many observers are comparing this software to the Bechdel test, which requires a film to include dialogue of two female characters speaking to one another about something other than a male. However, this tool is not yet able to detect the content of dialogue, forcing it to analyze presence rather than substantive content. GD-IQ focuses only on the duration and the gender participating in the conversation.

GD-IQ is primarily being used by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (where the tool borrows the GD initials from), the social activism project of Academy Award Winning Actress Geena Davis.

Davis, who has a long film/television career of playing characters outside of a gendered role (Thelma and Louise, A League of Their Own, Commander in Chief, The Long Kiss Goodnight ), has consistently pointed to the ratio of males to females in media being greatly skewed.  Now, using Google’s data analytics, she is bringing light to the statistical evidence that can help change a bias in the industry.

Google Analytics tools are providing the data required to change the way we understand representation in media.  Hopefully, more projects such as GD-IQ will put data to work improving our society and how we view one another.

Clare Maher

Clare Maher is the Product Marketing Manager at ClearObject. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College (#gobelles), Clare can usually be found yelling at the screen during a Notre Dame game, quoting any film ever made or touring the Indy restaurant scene.

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