The “Scully Effect” Is Real: Female “X-Files” Fans Flock to STEM Careers

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As if The X-Files wasn’t awesome enough as a television show, now we’re learning that all of the little girls who looked up, wide-eyed, at the tough-as-nails, no-nonsense, science-loving Scully are flocking to careers in science, math, and engineering.

Those fields have long been dominated by men, and though that tide has been shifting little-by-little, women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields still find themselves in the minority more often than not.

The news comes out in a recent report compiled by scientists working for The Geena Davis Institute. They surveyed more than 2000 U.S. women over the age of 25, 68% of whom were X-Files viewers, and asked them whether watching Dana Scully influenced their career decisions as they grew up.

A significant number of them said her character affected them to the point that they chose to major in a STEM field in college, and to work in STEM field as a career. They claimed that Scully gave them positive impressions of women working in science, and more than half said she increased their confidence in their ability to succeed in a male-dominated field.

More than 60% responded that Scully’s character increased their belief in the importance of STEM work.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working along in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role.”

The study provides data to back up long-held anecdotal beliefs that a “Scully Effect” of this type existed.

Saying definitively that Scully is the reason gets tricky, since there’s always the chance that women interested in STEM are more likely to watch shows like The X-Files in the first place.

That said, if more women are entering STEM fields, I say give Scully the credit (or maybe let her share it with Astrid, from Fringe).

With The X-Files revival, who knows – maybe a whole new generation of girls will be inspired.