A 501(c)3 Nonprofit Corporation
The Heroic Girls Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation based in Sacramento, Calif. Our mission is to improve representation for girls and women in pop culture, in order to promote gender equality in the real world.
A Florida State University study of almost 6,000 children’s books published between 1900 and 2000 found that just 31 percent had female central characters. Just one Caldecott winner has had a standalone female protagonist since the award was established in 1938.
The idea that women are not equal to men has its roots in childhood development. A University of Illinois study revealed that at age five, both boys and girls think their own gender is smarter. But by age six, girls think that males are smarter. That’s the age that children begin attending school, giving us a unique ability and responsibility to fight harmful gender stereotypes before they become fixed in a child’s mind.
By forcing girls to consistently place themselves in male shoes, we are teaching them that they are not the hero of the story and that they are capable of less than boys. Refusing to ask boys to empathize with female protagonists produces boys and men who lack empathy and respect for women. It reinforces the harmful stereotype that girls are simply unimportant. This lack of female role models – particularly in positions of leadership – in literature and pop culture has produced devastating real-world consequences.
We know what equality looks like. Women make up half the population. They should make up half of our leadership. Yet only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female. In Hollywood, just 7 percent of the top 250 movies of 2016 were headed by female directors. In government, 19.3 percent of the House of Representatives are women and just 23 percent of U.S. Senators.
If we want to make a more equal world for our children, we must first show them a more equal world in the books, movies, television and other media they consume.