For many devoted females viewers of the hit sci-fi television series “The X-Files,” the show wasn’t just entertaining, it was was life-changing.
Women who regularly tuned into “The X-Files” were 50% more likely to have worked in a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) field, according to a recent survey conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
Nearly all the women surveyed who were familiar with the series’ lead character, a female doctor and FBI agent named Dana Scully, said she is a role model for girls and women. And And close to two-thirds attributed their belief in the importance of STEM to the fictional character.
The survey’s findings validate fans’ long-held belief in “The Scully Effect,” which suggests that women became interested in science fields because of Scully, played by actress Gillian Anderson throughout the show’s 11 seasons.
Anderson has said she was surprised both by the show’s long-running success and the emergence of “The Scully Effect,” but she embraced her role.
“We got a lot of letters all the time, and I was told quite frequently by girls who were going into the medical world or the science world or the FBI world or other worlds that I reigned, that they were pursuing those pursuits because of the character of Scully,” Anderson said at New York Comic Con in 2013. “And I said, 'Yay!'"
It’s possible that “The Scully Effect” could impact future generations, reaching beyond just the show’s viewers.
More than half of female fans surveyed said they would encourage their daughter or granddaughter to enter a STEM field.
In 2015, women in the US made up 47% of its workforce, but held just 24% of STEM jobs, according to the US Department of Commerce. STEM fields are typically male-dominated, and STEM fields of studies are often stereotypically considered masculine ones, in contrast with more “feminine” subjects like the arts and humanities.
One cause of this disparity is reflected in the phrase “you can’t be what you can’t see.” For many girls and women, the lack of females in STEM fields, either in real life roles or as portrayed in the media, means it’s hard to envision themselves in those fields.
“Role models are incredibly important,” Jennie Mathur, a senior learning manager at the nonprofit Girls Inc., told UPROXX. “[Girls] need to see themselves in those fields. If they don’t, there really not going think of those fields as a place for them,” she explained.
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