Last week, the brand new Captain Marvel movie had its first all-star gala screening, and girls all over the world have a new female hero to look up to.
It's no secret that in fiction, films and the media strong female role models have been in short supply historically – not because there aren't women doing amazing things, but because the narrative has typically centred around men.
That finally began to change in the past few years, and we started to hear about not just the women changing the world today, but also - to give one example - the ones who've been revolutionising STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) all along.
The Hollywood movie machine is always under public scrutiny, but pressure has increased enormously over the last couple of years as the #MeToo and Time's Up movements have cast a glaring spotlight on the systemic sexism in film.
As part of that, we've all started to notice how few female superheroes there are, and how the ones we do have are often presented simplistically, sexually, or as supporting characters to the men.
Half the world left behind
The tide started to turn around 2015, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens introduced the world to the amazing Rey, played by Daisy Ridley.
Kids – not just girls – everywhere had a new icon, a new role model to give them strength, courage and inspiration.
But while Hollywood had made a step forward, it seemed the toy companies were stuck in the past. Working on outdated "received wisdom" that boys don't buy toys if they prominently feature women, a lot of the playsets and licensed products released alongside the film took Rey out of the spotlight, or forgot her altogether.
Fortunately, the movie going public wasn't having it, and nor should they.
A social media campaign called #WheresRey sprang into action, gathering pace and proving that there was in fact strong demand from kids of all genders for female heroes, not only on their screens but in their everyday lives.
Anyone can be a hero
The difference the campaign made was perfectly demonstratedby the launch of the Wonder Woman film two years later.
It didn't so much disprove as obliterate the old notion that female superhero films don't sell, setting numerous box office records and inspiring another crowd of kids.
Today, as we see Brie Larson transform from Carol Danvers into Captain Marvel, the world takes another step towards true equality. Captain Marvel isn't a sidekick or a love interest – she's a badass former US Air Force pilot who becomes a galactic superhero.
Characteristics like these are often left out of writing for female characters because they're considered "unfeminine," but equality doesn't mean writing flawless women – it means writing women who are multi-faceted, changeable, and real.
Of course, no superhero succeeds alone. Danvers is joined by an ensemble cast of memorable female characters including Gemma Chan's Starforce sniper Minn-Erva and Lashana Lynch's Maria Rambeau: pilot, wingwoman and single mother.
And then there's the Supreme Intelligence. The collective knowledge and skills of all the Kree race's best minds come together in one incomprehensibly intelligent being, played by Annette Bening.
A giant green head with tentacles and an incredible mind, the Supreme Intelligence is about as far as it's possible to get from the dumb-but-pretty female characters of old.
Captain Marvel is all about incredible women working together to change the world (or indeed, the universe).
That resonated with Vodafone, which is working towards a series of gender equality goals including connecting 50 million women to mobile services designed to empower their lives and attracting talented women back to the workforce.
For International Women's Day last year, Vodafone made a video asking why there are so few female superheroes:
Among the thousands who watched, shared and agreed was Disney. One conversation later, the two companies were collaborating on the Captain Marvel movie, of which Vodafone is now a proud partner.
The network will be supporting the film with a female empowerment campaign called #ConnectedSheCan, and a movement to nominate the real-life superheroes in our own lives with the hashtag #MySuperhero.
Ask a hero
Marvel fans themselves [add this link: https://gigalife.vodafone.com/stories/spiderman-spiderverse-digital-future-jobs-finder/], Vodafone couldn't resist the opportunity to meet the team behind the film and ask the stars a few questions on the red carpet.
If you want to know what STEM skills Gemma Chan, who plays Minn-Erva in the movie has, you can watch her speaking about her school years to the Gigalife team on the red carpet last week.
Her message to girls is that if they want to study engineering, maths or technology these are all open to them. Chan tells us: “Girls and boys should watch the movie and dream big.”
Captain Marvel will be out on the 8th of March. Grab your girl squad and get inspired.
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