FBI agent Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson) is one of TV’s most memorable characters, and The X-Files doctor is a role model for a lot more than just learning how to put up with a colleague’s bullshit conspiracy theories.
According to a report from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Agent Scully has also been instrumental in inspiring more women to pursue academic and professional careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
The “Scully effect” has long been known about in an anecdotal sense, but this research represents the first empirical evidence that the cool, collected, detail-oriented scientist did inspire more women to explore the sciences.
The study surveyed over 2,000 U.S. women aged 25+, nearly 68% of whom were viewers of The X-Files. 49% of the participants were also in STEM careers. Although the survey didn’t directly ask women if Dana Scully was a direct influence on their career choice, they found that women who watched the show more regularly were more likely to have studied STEM in college and were also more likely to pursue STEM careers.
Although this evidence shows correlation and not causation, many survey participants did say that Scully’s character gave them more confidence to be in a male-dominated field.
It just goes to show that positive and inclusive representation in media can have profoundly positive effects on society.