Many Girls Who Watched 'The X-Files' Had Something In Common When They Grew Up

It's called "The Scully Effect."

Turns out Dana Scully was a beacon of inspiration for girls on The X-Files in addition to trying to find proof that "the truth is out there." There is now data proving that this female TV icon has influenced women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math — something aptly dubbed "The Scully Effect."


For those not familiar, The X-Files is a sci-fi series that originally ran for nine seasons (from 1993 to 2002) before making its big return to the small screen in 2016. It featured David Duchovny as Fox Mulder, an FBI agent who believes in extraterrestrial presence, and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, an FBI agent (as well as medical doctor and scientist) who is harder to convince of aliens but eventually comes around to the idea.

What was so special about this female character that set her apart from many others of the time is that she wasn't just a sidekick to the male lead, with a lengthy list of adjectives, but showed women that they could do anything a man could do.

A study — from 21st Century Fox, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and the J. Walter Thompson Intelligence — was completed with the goal of finding out if Scully improved women's perceptions of STEM fields, inspired girls to go into STEM professions, and/or was viewed as a role model by female viewers. 

The answer, in short, was a big ol' "yes."

It found that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of women who were familiar with Dana Scully say the character increased their belief in the importance of STEM, half (50 percent) said Scully increased their interest in STEM, and nearly all (91 percent) said the character is a role model.

As for the actionable proof of Scully's impact, those who were medium/heavy viewers of The X-Files were more likely than non/light viewers to have considered working in a STEM field (40 percent to 28 percent), have studied STEM (28 percent to 22 percent), and have gone on to work in a STEM field (24 percent to 16 percent).

This data is important because, per the study, women constitute about half (48 percent) of the college-educated U.S. workforce but less than a quarter (24 percent) of jobs in STEM. Men also earn more STEM degrees in college (24 percent compared to 10 percent).

Now we have more female TV characters with STEM careers who will hopefully continue the legacy Scully began of inspiring girls and women around the world. The numbers don't lie: representation — and showing what someone is capable of achieving — is important.

(H/T: Fast Company)

Cover image: Frank Ockenfels / FOX


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