Disney Hires Geena Davis to Check Scripts for Gender Bias

Hollywood and the entertainment industry are paying more and more attention to issues of diversity and gender equality in films and television shows and now Walt Disney Studios has a new tool to help. Announced at the New Zealand Power of Inclusion Summit earlier this week, Disney is partnering with Geena Davis and her Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to deploy a new tool that functions as a "spellcheck" for gender bias in film and television scripts.

According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, the new "GD-IQ: Spellcheck for Bias" tool is an AI technology-using digital tool that is able to analyze a script's text and evaluate the number of male and female characters and if the breakdown is representative of the actual population. The tool, which was developed at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, can also be used to evaluate how many characters are LGBTQ+, are people of color, have disabilities as well as other groups frequently underrepresented in media. Additionally, the tool can check the number of lines spoken by group as well as additional characteristics. According to Davis, Disney is the pilot partner for the tool.

"I'm very proud to announce we have a brand new partnership with Walt Disney Studios using Spell Check for Bias," Davis said. "They are our pilot partners and we're going to collaborate with Disney over the next year using this tool to help their decision making, identify opportunities to increase diversity and inclusion in the manuscripts that they receive. We're very excited about the possibilities with this new technology and we encourage everybody to get in touch with us and give it a try."

Davis, who has long been an active advocate for female film and television representation, further explained that the goal of the Spell Check tool is not to "shame and blame" those writing and creating, but to simply reveal the unconscious bias that frequently makes its way into work. The ultimate goal is to use the data from Spell Check to help creators refine their scripts and projects so that they don't perpetuate various stereotypes.

"Nearly every sector of our society has a huge gender disparity, particularly in leadership positions," Davis said. "So how long is it going to take to correct that, to reach parity? No matter how hard we work, we can't snap our fingers and suddenly half the corporate boards are women. It's going to take a long time to make some of these changes."

For Davis, making what's seen in movies and television more gender equal will help make big strides towards those real-world changes.

"But here's my theory of change," Davis continued. "There's one category of gross gender inequality where the underrepresentation of women can be fixed absolutely overnight -- and it's onscreen. The very next project somebody makes -- the next movie, TV show -- can be gender-balanced. We can make this change happen very fast. In the time it takes to create a new show or a new film we can present a whole new vision of the future. Yes, there are woefully few female CEOs in the world, but half of them can be female onscreen immediately. How are we possibly going to get the number of women and girls interested in STEM careers that we need for science, technology, engineering and math? There can be droves of women in STEM careers now on TV and in movies, and then it will happen in real life."

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