You know what girls like better than pink stuff and cosmetics? It’s being pandered to!
It’s fairly well known that women are underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers. Attempts to increase the involvement of women and girls in science and technology is something that should be lauded, but sometimes those attempts go so hilariously wrong that they do more harm than good. The European Commissions new campaign, Science: It’s a Girl Thing, edges just a little too far over into the latter category.
The teaser video for this campaign is truly appalling. The girls aren’t doing any science, with the added benefit of being leered at by a grown-ass man. Plus, lots of pink and make up! What more could a girl want?
Scientists and science-philes cried out protest. To the European Commission’s credit, they have taken down the video (the video linked above is a mirror), replaced it with an oh-so-much-better one, and have asked for some real women in science.
Good. It’s basically the least they could do.
The European Commission responded so quickly to complaints that it’s almost unfair to bring attention to it. But it bears mentioning because of the lesson it teaches. The lesson being: do your research.
There is evidence to suggest that when girls are confronted with very feminine role models, they rate their interest in STEM lower than girls whose role models had more gender neutral traits. In addition, a 2002 study indicates that women who are exposed to gender stereotypes underperform on math tests. Nicole at Skepchick has a much better explanation of the science behind this and what it means.
Looks like the video could have very possibly had the opposite effect from that intended. Gold stars, European Commission.
However, just because this initial teaser was total crapola doesn’t mean that this campaign shouldn’t be promoted and applauded. Actually, the campaign features some really excellent profiles of women in science. I recommend you check them out and pass them around.
Science is awesome and you don’t need to be a particular gender to see it. I really want this effort to level the playing field to succeed.
Now, if they would just get rid of that ridiculous lipstick graphic.
Image credit: RDECOM