What Has Reality TV Done to Young Women?

FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2010 file photo, from left, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian and Khloe Kardashian arrive at the Tee
FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2010 file photo, from left, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian and Khloe Kardashian arrive at the Teen Choice Awards in Universal City, Calif. E! Entertainment network announced that they are expanding reality programming on their network in additoin to having renewed the Kardashians series for 3 years. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

Over the past decade, reality TV has seen a dramatic rise in popularity and with that, a colorful range of cultural topics have since emerged -- from documenting the lives of housewives to teen moms. According to a recent study by the Girl Scouts Institute, 47% of girls and young women say they are regular viewers, with 30% saying they sometimes watch. Many girls -- 86% -- believe these shows "often pit girls against each other to make the shows more exciting" and 70% say they "make people think it is ok to treat each other badly."

One must wonder what effect watching hours of reality TV has on young girls.

The stats say it all. Among girls who watch reality TV, 72% say they spend a lot of time on their appearance, versus 42% of non-viewers. Furthermore, research shows that viewers are less likely to know the occupational status of female characters than the male characters on television.

And we wonder why women aren't advancing in the boardrooms. Rather than seeing examples of what they can become -- a scientist, a vineyard owner, a chef -- girls and young women are watching examples of females as teen moms, housewives or socialites (Kardashians).

This past May, President Obama gave the commencement speech at our Alma Mater, Barnard College. He powerfully stated that "until a girl can imagine herself, can picture herself as a computer programmer, or a combat commander, she won't become one. Until there are women who tell her, ignore our pop culture obsession over beauty and fashion... she'll think those are the only things that girls are supposed to care about."

In order to work towards closing this stubborn gender gap, we believe there is a need for media to highlight examples we rarely see on entertainment TV -- the Hillary Clintons, the Amy Astelys and the J.K. Rowlings of the world.

Our web series, Route By Route, works towards showing young women and girls the vast world of options that are out there. We ask extraordinary women about the joys and the struggles that come with working towards something that you believe in. We are on a journey to highlight extra-ordinary women in American who have built careers around their passions, ranging from farming to finance. Join us on our Journey!