Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative

About Us

The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a leading think tank dedicated to addressing issues of inequality in entertainment.  

 

"Our work is about bringing evidence and insight to media industries on where diversity is needed.  I am in this to change the landscape of humanity, flanked by the next generation of world leaders: USC graduates and undergraduates," says Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Director of the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative.

 

MDSC's research has already been presented in multiple media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, USA Today, Salon, and others. We have worked with multiple for- and non-profit institutions to investigate disparities in media presentation for females and individuals from other underrepresented groups. MDSC Initiative is the leading group for industry research, located near the epicenter of the entertainment industry and networked to key decision-makers.


The MDSC Initiative engages in programmatic research, education, and advocacy in pursuit of its vision.

We work in four specific areas:

  1. Media portrayals of gender and race in popular narrative and documentary films and TV.
  2. Documenting employment patterns by gender and race/ethnicity behind the camera in fiction and non-fiction entertainment.
  3. Interviews with filmmakers about barriers and opportunities they experience navigating their careers.
  4. Assessment of audiences' needs and the financial performance of films as a function of gender and/or race of speaking characters and content creators.

These overarching research goals and activities serve as the pillars of the Initiative, and shape and define the individual projects we undertake. 

 

"Everyone deserves a chance to be seen and heard, and their stories should be told,"  says Marc Choueiti, Project Administrator for the Initiative.  "Our research points out the gaps and shows where change is possible."

 

Have a question for the MDSC Initiative? Contact us at slsmith [at] usc.edu.

MEET THE TEAM
What's New

April 22, 2015
Our newest report on barriers facing female filmmakers is out! In partnership with Women in Film Los Angeles and Sundance Institute, read Phase III of our study: Exploring the Careers of Female Directors. Check out coverage in Variety and The Wrap!

February 22, 2015
The
Los Angeles Times runs a story on the lack of female directors in the Hollywood studio system, and includes a quote from Dr. Stacy Smith.

February 2, 2015
Dr. Stacy Smith and Dr. Katherine Pieper describe why casting the Ghostbusters reboot is progress, but not a panacea for diversity in Hollywood at CNN.
 

January 27, 2015
What do we actually mean by "avoiding gender and racial bias" in Hollywood? Alyssa Rosenberg at The Washington Post asks the question, and mentions Dr. Stacy Smith and MDSC Initiative research in her answer.

January 26, 2015
Two years after the MDSC Initiative published the first report with Women in Film Los Angeles and Sundance Institute, TakePart recaps the findings and the current discussion around women in film.
 

January 22, 2015
At the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival, Dr. Stacy Smith and her work are mentioned in a conversation about diversity. Mashable covers the conversation.

January 21, 2015
Lights, Camera, Taking Action : Dr. Stacy Smith is front and center in this New York Times article that discusses how groups are working to change Hollywood.

January 21, 2015
Variety mentions Dr. Stacy Smith and MDSC Initiative research in a story on a Producer's Guild program to increase the number of female producers.

January 20, 2015
USC Annenberg and the MDSC Initiative launch a new project-- the USC Annenberg Comprehensive Analysis and Report on Diversity (CARD) to grade Hollywood on diversity. Women and Hollywood quotes Dr. Stacy Smith and MDSC team members on the project.

January 15, 2015
On the heels of the Oscar nominations, Dr. Stacy Smith and MDSC Initiative research is quoted in Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times, and at Medium.com.

December 15, 2014
More solutions for diversifying Hollywood! Dr. Stacy Smith describes three ways to create equality in The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment issue.

November 24, 2014
Dr. Stacy Smith's solution to gender imbalance in film, Just Add Five, is cross posted at
Women and Hollywood .

November 19, 2014
Debuting a solution to gender imbalance on screen in film!  Dr. Stacy Smith describes how to reach parity in a piece at The Wrap.

October 3, 2014
Curious about how MDSC research works? Read
a profile of the team and our work at FiveThirtyEight.com .

September 23, 2014
Our Global Study on Gender in Media is here! Download the executive summary, and check out coverage in the LA Times, Salon, BBC News, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, fivethirtyeight, and Forbes. More coverage coming soon!

August 25, 2014
New MDSC research on race/ethnicity in popular films has been covered in
Buzzfeed , and NBC News !

August 11, 2014
More reporting on our newest research covering race/ethnicity and gender in popular films! Check out stories in
The Washington Post , The Telegraph , and NPR .

August 6, 2014
Missed our newest studies on gender and race/ethnicity in popular films? You can still read about the work in Mashable, The Guardian, The New York Daily News, and at
CNN and the BBC .

August 5, 2014
Continuing coverage of our newest study on race/ethnicity in popular films: Variety, The Los Angeles Times, and Flavorwire.

August 4, 2014
New MDSC Initiative research featured by the AP: Few Roles for Hispanics in Top Films. 
Read more here.

July 24, 2014
The LA Times announces the latest MDSC research on females in film! Find the full report below and read the full story here.

April 1, 2014
MDSC research on gender in film is featured in a fivethirtyeight article on gender and film budgets.
See what they have to say about our findings...

March 1, 2014
Dr. Stacy Smith, MDSC Initiative director, joins Robin Morgan for Women's Media Center Live.
Listen here!

February 14, 2014
MDSC research is featured in The Hollywood Reporter.
Read the article here.

January 21, 2014
Indiewire covers our most recent study of female filmmakers in the independent realm.
Read the story here .


Previous Research

Yearly Reports on Gender On-Screen and Behind-the-Scenes in Film

2013: New! Gender Inequality in 600 Popular Films ( full report )
Our yearly report on representation on-screen, hypersexualization, and employment patterns in popular films from 2007-2010, and 2012-2013. 
 

2012: Gender Inequality in 500 Popular Films ( full report )
On-screen representation, hypersexualization, and employment patterns in popular films from 2007-2010 and 2012.

2007-2009: Gender Inequality in 300 Popular Films ( full report )
Females shown on-screen, hypersexuality, and production roles across popular films released between 2007 and 2009.

2008: Gender Inequality in Top-Grossing Films ( full report )
On-screen representation, hypesexualization, and employment patterns in popular films from 2008.

2007: Gender Inequality in Top Grossing Films ( full report )
On-screen representation, hypersexualization, and employment patterns in popular films from 2007.

Race/Ethnicity On-Screen and Behind-the Scenes in Film

2013: New! Race/Ethnicity in 600 Popular Films ( full report )
On-screen representation, hypersexualization, and employment patterns in popular films from 2007-2010 and 2012-2013.

2012: Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films ( full report )
On-screen representation, hypersexualization, and employment patterns in popular films from 2007-2010 and 2012.

2007-2008: Black Characters in Popular Film ( full report  )
On-screen representation, hypersexualization, and employment patterns in popular films from 2008.

Gender On-Screen and Behind-the-scenes in Academy-Award Nominated Films


2010: Gender Representation 1977-2010 (
full report )
Females on screen and behind-the-camera in Best Picture nominees.

2006: Gender Representation 1977-2006 ( full report )
Females on screen and behind-the-camera in Best Picture nominees.

Gender On-Screen and Behind-the-Scenes in Family Films and Television

2014: New! Gender Bias Without Borders (executive summary)
An investigation of female characters in popular films from 11 countries. Report prepared for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

2012: Gender Roles & Occupations in Film and Television (short report)  
Examines female representation on-screen and in various industries across family films, prime-time television, and children's shows. Prepared for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

2011: Occupational Portrayals in G-Rated Films ( full report )
A study prepared for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media on gender roles and occupations in G-rated content.

2011: Industry Leaders' Perceptions of Gender in Family Films ( executive summary  )
This study explores reasons for gender imbalance in family films through interviews with 108 industry leaders. Report prepared for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

2010: Gender Disparity in Family Films ( full report )
A study of G-, PG-, and PG-13-rated content, prepared for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

2008: Gender Stereotypes in Popular Films and TV ( full report )
Four studies of gender representation in film and television, including a qualitative analysis of protagonists in G-rated content. Report prepared for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

Women Behind-the-Scenes in Independent Film

New! 2015/2014/2013: Barriers and Opportunities Facing Females in Independent Film (2015 full report; 2014 full report ; 2013 full report )
An analysis of employment patterns of filmmakers at Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute Filmmaker Labs. This study also uses interviews with content creators and industry leaders to illuminate barriers and opportunities for women behind the camera in independent and more commercial film arenas. Report prepared for Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles.

Partners

Research and advocacy at this level involves multiple stakeholders. The MDSC Initiative is grateful to our existing sponsors and partners, including Julie Parker Benello, Ann Erickson and Richard Pellett, Mari and Manuel Alba, and The Clif Bar Family Foundation. Interested in supporting the MDSC Initiative? Please contact us for more information or click here to donate .