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Representation of women in media: How do top streaming services compare?

representation of women in media

The entertainment industry, like most other industries in our society, was once primarily dominated by men. Most of the movies and TV shows considered classics from back in the day featured white men in front of and behind the screen, yet they were supposed to be relatable to everyone. And after decades of this consistent underrepresentation, the women that had been speaking out since the beginning finally had their voices heard. Looking around today, what is the representation of women in media? Furthermore, how do the top streaming services like Netflix and Hulu compare on the said representation?

Representation of women in media today

In the entertainment industry today, more female stories are told than ever before. And while there is certainly a lot of room for growth left, part of this growth of diverse characters, directors and stories are thanks to the streaming service boom of the early 2010s.

With new avenues to tell stories, outside of the traditional production studios and cable networks, women’s voices are hitting the small and big screen to critical acclaim. To see just how the current streaming services stack up in terms of female representation both on and off the screen, the editorial team at Soda took a deep dive into their original shows to see who is really prioritizing women in TV.

Females on TV
Image courtesy of Soda.

Soda looked at the number of female and male roles in major cable network shows since 1997, and it’s clear to see that the gender gap in the entertainment industry has made huge strides. While in 1997, only 39% of major programs had a female role at all, that number is now at 44%. Male roles have also experienced a slight decline to help make up for this underrepresentation, dropping 5% in the last 20 years.

But, as we know, the real leaders of women’s stories aren’t the cable networks, but rather streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. By analyzing all of their original content, Soda was able to break down exactly who each service is accurately representing (and where they have room for growth).

Image courtesy of Soda.

Hulu leads the pack in the number of female leading roles, the number of women of color in leading roles as well as the number of female directors. Netflix, the original streaming service, is following closely behind and even beating out Hulu for the number of female producers backing their programs.

How about Amazon? Although relatively new to the streaming industry, has a lot of catching up to do. And although they may have won many awards for female-led shows like Fleabag, they are severely lacking in the number of women of color in starring roles.

Streaming services with female leads

Some of the top female-led content for these companies include:


  • Orange Is The New Black
    • Leading Lady: Taylor Schilling
    • Producer: Tara Hermann
    • Director: Erin Feeley


  • Harlots
    • Leading Lady: Lesley Manville
    • Producer: Alison Owen
    • Director: Debra Hayward


  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
    • Leading Lady: Rachel Brosnahan
    • Producer: Amy Sherman-Palladino
    • Director: Amy Sherman-Palladino

What can you do to improve the representation of women in media?

The best way to encourage more shows starring women is by watching those currently on air. This helps prove to the networks that they should create more, similar content because it is what consumers want.

It’s not hard to see why. The shows mentioned above are led by a creative team of inspirational women, and they have been hailed by audiences and critics alike. So what are you waiting for? Start binge-watching some female-led content and help women continue to make their mark on the world.

8 thoughts on “Representation of women in media: How do top streaming services compare?”

  1. Hi Christy, It’s good to see that more female stories are told now. There are still a path ahead, though…. have you watched Big Little Lies?. It is a great series, worth watching. A bit rough, though… but reality could be harsh, right?. I gave up on Orange is the New Black, because it became too borderline for me…. Gore, maybe?? But the first season was good…
    thanks for sharing. I hope your quarantine is going well. Take care, ok 👍… I am sending you a big, big hug 😘

    1. Hi Aqui, my mom keeps telling me about Big Little Lies and I want to watch it, just haven’t yet! Ohhh now I look forward to it! Yes I also stopped watching Orange is the New Black, it had so much potential but I didn’t like the racial stereotypes I was seeing. Please stay safe Aqui! Huge hug to you, thank you for the amazing comment ❤️

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