From his first appearances in the series X Files in 1993, Dana Scully stood out from other female characters portrayed on television. Both an FBI agent and a graduate in medicine and physics, this strong woman, played by Gillian Anderson, appeared as an example to follow for viewers – until then lacking such representation on screen.
“Back when Scully hit the screens, you didn’t see those kinds of women on television: a confident female character, respected by her male colleague. Many girls found themselves in this character“said Gillian Anderson in an interview.
Last February, the FOX television network commissioned the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media – a non-profit organization that studies gender representation in the media – to conduct a survey to determine whether women who have watched series were more likely to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
In the United States, women make up 48% of the workforce with a college education, but only 24% of them work in the STEM field.
The results speak for themselves: women who watched the series were 50% more likely to work in STEM. In addition, two-thirds of the women surveyed—who work in this field—said Scully had been a role model for them.
“This is called the “Scully Effect”: during the broadcast of X Filesmany women have gone on to careers in science“, had explained the actress Gillian Anderson during the Comic-Con of San Diego in 2013.
For Dr. Anne Simon, scientific advisor for the series, the “Scully Effect” has reverberated to her classroom: “During the fifth season of X Files, I gave an introductory course in biology to nearly 500 students. I decided to ask my students how many of them had become interested in this discipline after watching the series. Half the hands went up.»
“The series have a real impact on people’s beliefs”
As Fast Company explains, characters like Dana Scully’s are essential if we ever want to close the gender gap in science.
“Television and the media in general influence popular culture. Series have a real impact on people’s beliefs. In the case of X Filesit has allowed a change in the societal normsays Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute.
Dana Scully paved the way for Dr. Temperance Brennan (bones), Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Black-ish), Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler (The Big Bang Theory) and Darlene Alderson (Mr Robot). Hopefully this list will grow over the next few years… Thanks Scully.