Watching children’s television one day with her daughter, actress Geena Davis noticed that far fewer women than men appeared on the screen. This observation inspired the Academy Award-winner to assume an important new off-screen role. As founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Davis supports research into the disparities between Hollywood’s depictions of women and of men. In 2008, the institute published a study by Stacy Smith of the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, which found male characters outnumbering females nearly threefold in a broad sampling of films. Even in scenes of crowds or animated schools of fish, Davis told the GDIGM Conference in 2008, “the worlds that kids are seeing are really bereft of a female presence overall.”
Born Virginia Davis in Wareham, Mass., Davis earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in drama at Boston University. A role on the critically acclaimed sitcom Buffalo Bill (for which she would write an episode) in 1982 launched a film and television career whose many highlights include the films The Fly, A League of Their Own, Thelma and Louise and the Stuart Little series. Davis won an Academy Award for her performance in 1988’s The Accidental Tourist and, more recently, the 2005 Golden Globe for leading actress with her portrayal of the American president in the TV series Commander in Chief.
She is a member of Mensa and tried out for the U.S. archery team bound for the 2000 Olympics, placing 24th out of 28 women in a qualifying competition.