I thought the article in its entirety was a good read -- hard to choose a quote.
'Star Wars' Needs a New Approach to Gender—Not Just More Women
The issue, then, I'd argue, is not simply that Star Wars does not have all that many female characters in it. The issue is that Star Wars is, compared to other contemporary sci-fi narratives, incredibly timid in its approach to gender. For that matter, Hollywood sci-fi has mostly avoided the matter entirely. It's not an accident that big cinema's go-to experimental sci-fi creator is Philip K. Dick. Dick is one of my favorite writers in any genre or time period ever. But exploring possibilities or permutations of gender is simply not one of his main areas of interest.
You could certainly argue, I suppose, that the public wants space opera and not gender exploration—Han Solo shooting storm troopers rather than tentacle brain intercourse with aliens. To me, though, looking around, it doesn't seem especially clear that violence sells better than sex. Le Guin and Butler are quite famous and successful. Y: The Last Man was a very popular comic. For that matter, Kirk/Spock slash fiction, which retools Star Trek space adventure as homosexual romance for women, is a successful (albeit semi-underground) phenomenon. And if you don't think fangirls would pay money to see androgynous guys get hot and heavy in a screen adaptation of The Left Hand of Darkness... well, you need to go watch some Torchwood.
There seems reason to believe, then, that sci-fi film's lack of creativity when it comes to gender is more about its own preconceptions than about some inevitable logic of the market.<<<<<