Alisha is a member of Plan International USA’s Youth Advisory Board. In 2019, she participated in Plan’s “Takeovers” for International Day of the Girl. Here’s her experience, in her own words.
Men continue to dominate news, entertainment and digital media, according to a 2019 study by the Women’s Media Center. One woman changing this is Vicki Dummer, head of network current programming at ABC Network. I recently had the incredible opportunity to “take over” her role for the day to kick off Plan’s International Day of the Girl Takeovers.
Girls’ representation in the media is important to all of us. And this year, young people and Plan came together to find opportunities for takeovers that will continue to generate awareness about inequality in this space.
This included my opportunity with ABC Network.
If you told me even a week ago that I would be leading meetings with the executive producers of shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” or providing my input on scripts for upcoming ABC dramas, I would have been stunned. But that is exactly what I did during my takeover. I got to explore the character development of Dex Parios, the protagonist of “Stumptown.” Growing up with very few strong female protagonists on television to look up to, I was excited to see a character like Dex being created to be assertive and unapologetic, which challenges traditional gender roles and norms. I observed the “ins and outs” of the production phase, how every little detail and its ultimate effects on the viewer is taken apart and analyzed.
I also had many opportunities to speak one-on-one with Vicki, which gave me a newfound appreciation for the role of the media in creating social change. She told me that viewers often view television as “real life,” putting great responsibility on producers to make the content they produce authentic. While strong female characters are showing up more frequently in television, male producers continue to dominate the media industry, leaving out room for diverse perspectives in the production phase. It is impossible to talk about gender and race in shows like “Mixed-ish” without involving women of color in every part of the process. In other words, representation is just as important behind the scenes as it is on the screen, because it ensures that critical and accurate perspectives are brought on screen.
Assuming Vicki’s role for a day at ABC Network opened my eyes to the critical role that the media can play in creating and driving social change, as well as the need for diverse perspectives in the production phase. Along with putting more strong female protagonists on-screen, the media industry must recognize the importance of having women in its executive positions, because a diverse team has a uniquely powerful ability to portray character experiences and reach a much wider audience.
Read more about Plan’s celebrations for International Day of the Girl.