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Media Studies Representation Essays On Leadership

In conjunction with the Miss Representation Film Screening and Panel Discussion, the Clayman Institute hosted an essay contest that gave Stanford students, staff, and faculty the chance to take action and promote gender equality by picking one image that contributes to the underrepresentation of women and girls in the media. Each contestant used their example to write an original 150-word essay expressing how they would challenge the media's limited portrayal of women and girls. 

The winning submissions were selected for their originality, clarity in expressing the message, vision, and awareness of issues surrounding women in the media. The judges for the contest included Founder and Creative Director of Maternal Instinct Kat Gordon, Director of the Stanford Healthy Body Image Program Megan Jones, Director of Miss Representation Jennifer Siebal Newsom, and Executive Producer of Miss Representation Regina Scully. 


It would be nice if The Media were a villain like the ones we used to root against in Disney movies so a superhero(ine) could just lock it up. But The Media is not a villain, because it’s me, and it’s you, and it’s everyone around us. So we have to fight it from within and remember that we’re innocent and guilty because just like a single image, nothing is really evil unless you look hard enough. So take a hard look and think about how you really feel about the fact that apparently, women don’t even need a face anymore—just an airbrushed body. If we can use our faces to remind ourselves that they do, in fact, exist and don’t all look like cars, then maybe our faces can make their way into advertising or—gasp—out of magazine pages.

Amanda Rost. Stanford Undergraduate. Class of 2014.


The image I have chosen is a piece from Shahid Afridi’s Lawn Collection, 2011. It features traditional Muslim outfits as a fashion statement. For me, I chose an image that did NOT contribute to the under-representation of women, primarily because it is too easy to find women of Islam who are portrayed as agentless, subservient, and tragic victims of patriarchy in the media. I love this picture precisely because it portrays a woman standing in a commanding pose with presence, and she is NOT wearing all black garments (google ‘Muslim Woman’ and see what I mean). She is not hypersexualized; she is not demonized; she is not weak. I interpret the woman as one who makes an active choice to be Muslim not because she is a brainwashed pawn, but because her religion empowers her. Her garments are a reflection of her religion, and her garments are beautiful.

Thanh D. Nguyen. Stanford Undergraduate. Class of 2013.


Not all women business leaders act like Meryl Streep’s cruel character in Devil Wears Prada. But the common media portrayal of successful businesswomen as harsh and manipulative perpetuates myths that endanger women’s advances in business. Myth 1: Nice girls can’t succeed. I witnessed girls choosing not to go into business because they thought they lacked the necessary edge. Myth 2: To be taken seriously in the male-dominated office, women should act mean. I’ve seen female managers act mean because they thought it was necessary, when a more balanced approach might have worked better. Myth 3: Fellow women in the workplace are not to be trusted. I had amazing female mentors, but I also had female friends who were mistrusted and therefore mistreated by their female colleagues. So: we need successful female businesswomen with a variety of management styles in our movies, shows, and news coverage. I’m working on it.

Leslie Georgatos. Stanford Graduate School of Business. First Year.

A continuing challenge for organizations is the persistent underrepresentation of women in senior roles, which gained a particular prominence during the global financial crisis (GFC). The GFC has raised questions regarding the forms of leadership that allowed the crisis to happen and alternative proposals regarding how future crises might be avoided. Within this context women’s leadership has been positioned as an ethical alternative to styles of masculinist leadership that led to the crisis in the first place. Through a multimodal discursive analysis this article examines the socio-cultural assumptions sustaining the gendering of leadership in the popular press to critically analyse how women’s leadership is represented during the GFC of 2008–2012. Highlighting the media’s portrayal of women’s leadership as a gendered field of activity where different forms of gender capital come into play, we identify three sets of dialectics: women as leaders and women as feminine, women as credible leaders and women as lacking in credibility, and women as victims and women as their own worst enemies. Together, the dialectics work together to form a discursive pattern framed by a male leadership model that narrates the promise of women leaders, yet the disappointment that they are not men. Our study extends understandings regarding how female and feminine forms of gender capital operate dialectically, where the media employs feminine capital to promote women’s positioning as leaders yet also leverages female capital as a constraint. We propose that this understanding can be of value to organizations to understand the impact and influence of discourse on efforts to promote women into leadership roles.

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