21st Century Fox partnered with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to assess what’s been called the “Scully Effect.” It’s described as “a phenomenon that saw an influx of women pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers” thanks to the positive representation of Agent Dana Scully – “a pioneering, capable and brilliant female character on TV” – as portrayed by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files, which debuted in 1993. Through a research survey of over 2,000 women across the U.S., age 25 and older, the systematic study looked at the influence of Dana Scully pertaining to STEM, and the findings make us believers.
As detailed by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, this is the background on which the study was based. “In the late 1990s, one name was synonymous with a medical doctor-turned-paranormal detective: Dana Scully. Played by actor Gillian Anderson, Dr. Dana Scully made her mark on millions of fans who tuned in every week to watch The X-Files, a hit science-fiction drama that aired on FOX for nine seasons from 1993 to 2002, before returning to TV in 2016. Scully was one of the first multidimensional female characters in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) eld to be featured on a popular television show, and the first to play a leading role. She is known for her objectivity, skepticism, confidence, and brilliance. In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime time television role.” [Editor’s Note: in the video above, Gillian Anderson weighs in on the importance of her Dana Scully.]
The primary questions 21st Century Fox and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media asked through their research are “whether Scully’s character improved women’s perceptions of STEM fields, whether she inspired girls and women to go into a STEM profession, and whether female viewers see Scully as a role model.” The study “found a correlation between women who were familiar with, or fans of, The X-Files and its influence on their career choices.”
These are some of the highlights of their findings, but you can view the full report here:
– Nearly two-thirds of women in the study who work in STEM say Dana Scully served as a role model.
– More than 90% of women in the study who are familiar with The X-Files agree that Dana Scully is a strong female character and a role model for women and girls.
– Women who regularly watched The X-Files are 50% more likely to work in STEM than women who watch it less frequently, or not at all.