I recently wrote an article, Sci-Fi’s Top 8 - Female Sci-Fi Authors, and was surprised at how difficult it was to find more than 5 successful female writers…why aren’t more women creating Sci-Fi?
Science Fiction doesn’t draw a lot of women and my only assumption can be that the genre focuses on science, a field of study that attracts more men than women. Is this a biological difference between males and females? Is it simply a matter of interest at a neurological level? Or is this environmental? A bi-product of a society that continues to perpetuate gender bias and inequality?
I think the answer to that is pretty obvious - it’s environmental. Women simply aren’t given the opportunities to excel in scientific fields. Gender parity is a hot topic in the business world as we continue to see salary and opportunity inequality for women, especially in the science industries. McKinsey recently conducted a study, which found that the Energy and Basic Materials and Technology: Software and Hardware fields are unable to attract women for basic, entry-level positions. In the Technology industry specifically, only 37% of entry level positions are held by women, versus 45% in other industries.
That differential is MASSIVE!!!
It’s one thing to blame companies for not promoting women as much as they do men OR for not paying them equally for the same jobs, but for the scientific industries, this is an issue at the recruitment level. And it’s an issue that will take a long time to correct. According to an article in The Huffington Post, reaching gender parity at the VP level will take 25 years and at the C-suite level, it will take 100 years.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!
So why is this happening? I believe this is an issue that begins in childhood. We treat little boys differently than we do little girls…especially when it comes to Science Fiction. Have you ever seen rocket ships or planets on little girl’s clothes? How about aliens, or DNA strands? The vast majority of Sci-Fi movies and books are driven by male characters, with female characters typically playing supporting roles. Why should little girls believe they can have a career in Science Fiction when everything about the genre screams male dominance?
Fortunately, female-based Sci-Fi is trending in TV. In the fall of 2015, both Supergirl and Jessica Jones debuted, featuring female leads and female driven storylines. With the exception of The Middleman on ABC Family in 2008, this is the first time we’ve seen a Sci-Fi, comic book TV show staring a woman since Wonder Woman in 1975. Even though it boasts an ensemble cast, I also must shout out to The Walking Dead. Carol and Michonne are strong female leads, making them excellent Sci-Fi role models for adolescent women (children certainly should NOT be watching this show!).
In the literary world, female-centric Sci-Fi is also on the rise. Both The Hunger Games and Divergent were NY Times Best Sellers, and they featured strong females. HUZZAH!!
But the bottom line remains – until we can level the playing field and get girls interested in science, we will continue to see a male dominated Science Fiction genre. Fortunately, there are people, female figure heads, that have not only started the conversation, but have gained incredible momentum.
Shelley Zalis, founder of The Girls Lounge, is a pioneer. Her organization provides mentorship and support for women in the tech and science industries…and considering the campaign has reached over 40 million people, The Girls Lounge is really making an important impact. The organization, along with the Girl Up Campaign, even held audience with First Lady, Michelle Obama, and on International Women’s Day.
Arianna Huffington and The Huffington Post are also making waves, having initiated the Girls in STEM Mentorship Program. For those of you who don’t know, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I just subscribed and hope to be a mentor for girls wanting to write Science Fiction. If you’re a women of science, OR if you want to learn more, I encourage you to enroll as well.
Until we are able to truly encourage a love for science at the childhood level, we will continue to see a male dominated Science Fiction genre. It’s going to take an army to change gender preconceptions about science…but we HAVE to start somewhere. I personally would love to see more fresh female perspectives on a genre ruled by men. Wouldn’t you?