How not to encourage girls to do science

UPDATED again: Thanks, SeanH! The video is still viewable here. I recommend reading the Washington Post story, too, but that video is, as everyone’s saying, funnier/sadder than parody!

4:50pmEDT: The video no longer plays at the Washington Post site linked below.  It now says, “This video is private.” Too much criticism to take?

Oh, heavens to Betsy, this is really cringe-worthy.

And why didn’t they just show images of females actually doing science? Or show what genders look like together, doing science?

Sigh. Thanks, Samantha, I guess, for the tip. Sigh.

13 thoughts on “How not to encourage girls to do science

  1. More coverage here, but no video. Readers if you know where we can watch it, please let us know!

  2. The link is here,

    Also, from Sociological Images:

    “Indeed, girls don’t just need to be told “you can do science and look cute too!” In fact, a post at New Scientist discusses the results of a recently-published article by Diana Betz and Denise Sekaquaptewa, “My Fair Physicist? Feminine Math and Science Role Models Demotivate Young Girls”. Betz and Sekaquaptewa found that images of conventionally feminine women in science fields actually demotivated female middle school students and decreased their perceptions of their likelihood of success in science and math. Girls appeared to see these images and, instead of thinking “Oh, I can like makeup and clothes but still do science!”, they thought, not unreasonably, “Oh, great, so I have to be smart and still meet all the demands of conventional femininity, too?” Instead of inspiring girls, the images were threatening, making them feel less likely to succeed in science and math. This effect was most pronounced for those girls who weren’t already interested in such fields — presumably the exact group campaigns such as Science: It’s a Girl Thing! are meant to attract. As the authors conclude (p. 7), “Submitting STEM role models to Pygmalian-style makeovers…may do more harm than good.””

  3. Pro: The male scientist at the microscope was also a ridiculously attractive model, suggesting that perhaps in the imaginary world of the video, all scientists are smoking hot.

    Con: It appears that the only area of science that is “a girl thing” is Cosmetological Chemistry (with an emphasis on Hydrogen).

  4. Thanks for posting, I like that you’ve kept me informed I had not heard or seen this in the media. Wow! Talk about missing the boat! As a woman in a STEM career, this was so sad to see…they’ve managed to go into the future and take a step back at the same time! Wow!

  5. Female whats doing science?

    I know it’s off topic, but, sorry, calling women “females” gets my knickers in a twist. It reminds me of chattel, and I suspect it has origins in that given the usage seems to have grown out of African American communities here in the US. If anyone has any insight, please let me know!

    And that video’s awful!

  6. Betsey, ‘female’ as a noun is very old. The OED has a 1350 citation — older than any citation for the adj. sense. (Similarly for ‘male’.)

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