Marvel writer Shane Black revealed that his scripts were completely changed because executives were worried that a female villain wouldn't sell as many toys.
Wait, seriously?! How are we still having this conversation?! Like, didn't we just do this with Star Wars?!
No, but for real. Here's what Black had to say about the experience: "There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem. Which is that we had a female character who was the villain in the draft. We had finished the script and we were given a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand and we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female ... That’s Marvel corporate."
The move makes even less sense because the villain who actually ended up leading in said film never actually got a full action figure -- only minifigs like this.
I guess it shouldn't be surprising that Marvel still has regressive ideas about what kind of toys will sell, considering they haven't even made a superhero movie with a female lead yet. The Hollywood Reporter also noted that "Marvel has often come under criticism for its lack of female lead characters, with none of its first 13 features featuring a female solo lead. The female-led Captain Marvel was announced in Oct. 2015 for a July 2018 release, but it has since been bumped back twice to make way for male-led movies; it is now scheduled for a March 2019 opening, where it will be Marvel’s 21st movie."
Jezebel notes optimistically that DC's Wonder Woman film is still in the works, with a debut set for June 2017. But that's still a long way away, and who knows, maybe our world will be destroyed by a ruthless super-villainess by then. She'd certainly have plenty of motivation for mass destruction considering how little respect she'd get if she were to actually exist.