Gender bias without borders: An investigation of female characters of popular films in 11 countries

Research reveals that the percentage of female speaking characters in top-grossing movies has not meaningfully changed in roughly a half of a century. Further, women are often stereotyped and sexualised when they are depicted in popular content. Occupationally, our previous research shows that few women hold positions of power and importance on screen. While Hollywood is quick to capitalise on new audiences and opportunities abroad, the industry is slow to progress in creating compelling and complex roles for females.

The purpose of the study is to explore the visibility and nature of female depictions in films worldwide. To address this goal, we analysed gender roles in popular films across the 10 most profitable territories internationally (Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom) as reported by the Motion.

Findings include: 


  • Only 23.3% of the films had a girl or woman as a lead or co lead driving the plot
  • Films with a female director attached had 6.8% more females on screen than did those without a female director
  • Females were over twice as likely as males to be shown in sexually revealing attire 
  • There is virtually little or no difference in the sexualization of female characters between the ages of 13 and 39 years