US Chief Tech Officer calls for more LGBT and female characters on TV

PinkNews Exclusive
The US Chief Technology Officer has told PinkNews that there is a desperate need for equality in the way media portrays LGBT people and women.

Speaking to PinkNews at the GLAAD Gala in San Francisco on Saturday, Megan Smith said we can’t underestimate the impact media, both social and more traditional, has on those watching.

Megan Smith

Smith was appointed as the CTO of the US, also known as the Assistant to the President, Associate Director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in September 2014.

The former Google executive is the the most senior lesbian in the current administration.

She told PinkNews: “Media is incredibly impactful around equality or inequality you know, the imagery we see. The one that is so striking to me is children’s television and family television.”

Of being friends with Geena Davis, Smith said the actor had done research into the portrayal of women in television, particularly family and kids’ programmes.

She said: “One of the things that was really interesting was, out of every four characters in those programs, only one is a girl.”

Smith went on to say that working in TV, women are outnumbered 15-to-one.

“It’s not coming because the Hollywood folks mean to be doing that per say. It’s just the unconscious bias that they have that is causing them to cast or animate in this very biased way. And it just goes on to exacerbate the problem.

She said the issue was also true of LGBT people on TV: “It is so amazing to watch, you know, whether fictional characters like Will and Grace or people like Ellen, you know, being on TV and out. It is so important for others to see amazing role models.”

Commending the film ‘Celluloid Closet’, Smith said things were getting better in the US media for the portrayal of LGBT people in film.

Noting Germany as an example, she said the LGBT community in some countries have no role models on TV.

“You can see the difference, there is no gay marriage, Angela Merkel came out saying no, she doesn’t believe in it. You can see in other countries, you saw in Brazil, again, there is no gay media, how do you build that pressure in the absence of the media?”

The internet, Smith says, is key in breaking down borders and communicating with other people around the world.

Asked what she wanted to achieve in terms of LGBT equality in her role, Smith said: “I’m really focused on inclusion of everybody because the talent is so deep in this country but we are not fielding the whole team. And so we want to have that happen in the US.

“We want that all around the world, we want everybody to do the things that they are super passionate about and be able to bring their passion and innovation to the world. Because if people do the things they really care about we are going to have extraordinary innovation in the world.”

Smith was honoured with the Ric Weiland Award on Saturday. The award honors innovators who advance LGBT equality and acceptance.