Geena Davis, the actor and founder of a research institute into the role and prominence of women in the media, believes that it won’t be much longer before Hollywood makes drastic improvements in the number of female characters in movies.

Davis, 59, who is most famous for her roles in Thelma And Louise, A League of Their Own and her Oscar-winning performance in The Accidental Tourist, has spent many years lobbying producers, directors and studios to push for more female characters and castings. Making the keynote address at a panel at the British Film Institute in London about gender in the media, she made a confident prediction for the future.

Geena DavisGeena Davis was speaking at the British Film Institute

“I go directly to talk to the creators, the decision makers, and the response has been overwhelming. Lots of TV and movies have come out now that we know we have impacted, so I feel very confident predicting that the needle will move significantly within the next few years, and it will be historic. For seven decades it has not moved significantly, and I believe that it will.”

A recent report by the institute she founded revealed that, since 1946, the proportion of women cast in movies had barely changed at all, and that it would take 700 years to achieve gender parity on screen at the current rate of progress.

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She addressed this in her speech: “despite all the times when people say, ‘Now there’s been Hunger Games, now there’s been Thelma And Louise, surely now things will change.’ But they don’t,” she said. “It’s really about unconscious bias, and my theory is that we’re instilling that from the beginning by the entertainments we aim at little children.”

In terms of how these changes might be implemented, Davis spoke from her own experience of speaking to people in the industry. “What I recommend as a very easy step is: before you cast something, just go through and do a gender check and change a bunch of first names to female. Voila! You have some very un-stereotyped female characters.”

“The default is so male in our society that it just doesn’t occur to people to say, ‘Why isn’t the boss or the best friend or the landlord a woman, it so easily could be?’”

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