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published by Meredith Dustin



Women represent half of the human population. But you wouldn't know it, based on Hollywood's portrayals.

How women are portrayed

On-screen in the Top 500 Films, 2007-2012

Average Ratio of Male Actors to Female Actors:




Percentage of Speaking Characters who are Female:




of female speaking characters wore sexually revealing clothing

Percentage of Actors who are shown Naked or Partially Naked on Film

Percentage of Characters who wore Sexually Revealing Clothing

Only 10.7% of Films feature a Balanced Cast, with Equal Numbers of Male and Female Characters

The Bechdel Test

Named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel (whose comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For" is cited as the origin of the test), the Bechdel Test sets a basic standard for female representation on film—essentially, testing whether or not the female characters exist beyond their male co-stars.

The test's criteria are:

Two: Do they talk to each other?

One: Are there two or more female characters with names?

And three: Do they talk about something other than a man?

*The Bechdel test is often used as a template for gauging minority representation in films as well. The "People of Color Bechdel Test" and "Queer People Bechdel Test" are also used, to gauge representation of non-white and LGBT characters.


There are two or more women with names in the film who talk about something other than a man.


There are two or more women with names in the film who talk about something other than men, but it's contrived.


-Fewer than two female characters with names -Two or more female characters with names, but they never speak to each other -Two or more female characters with names, but they only speak about men

Top 50 Movies of 2013: The Bechdel Breakdown

Some have suggested an alternative test for female representation called the "Mako Mori test" (named after the Pacific Rim character Mako Mori)—the criteria for passing are (a) at least one named female character (b) who has her own narrative arc (c) that is not about supporting a male's arc. Neither test sets a particularly high bar for female representation in film, however, both provide a baseline standard for women in film.

Bechdel Alternative: The Mako Mori Test

Industry Inequality

Women vs. Men Behind the Scenes in 2012 Films

Ratio of Men to Women in the Film Industry:

5 : 1

$465 million

$181 million

Forbes 2013 list of the top 10 highest paid actresses made a collective $181 million—while the top ten actors grossed a collective $465 million


While there is no doubt that Hollywood has come a long way in terms of female representation both on-screen and in the industry, we've got a long way to go before we truly achieve equality in the film industry. Females are still overwhelmingly underrepresented both behind-the-scenes and on-screen. However, more and more women are overcoming the many hurdles that stand between them and a film career, and hopefully this trend will continue into the future until true equality is achieved.