SCIENCE! It’s a giggly, lipsticky, GIRLY thing!

SCIENCE! It’s a giggly, lipsticky, GIRLY thing!

Women are underrepresented in science. This is not something anyone who has worked in the sciences would be surprised to hear.

Studies have found that part of the reason fewer girls go into the sciences is because there’s a perception that science isn’t a girl thing.

The European Commission decided to fix this. But instead of saying something sensible like oh, I don’t know, “There’s no such thing as boy things and girl things really”, they decided to run a campaign to say that science is a girl thing!

[edit: the video has been made private, if anyone can find a working copy for me, please let me know]

As a former scientist, who is a feminist intensely passionate about gender equality, this video was actually painful for me to watch. It’s as if whoever conceptualised this video sat in a room and thought of every single offensive gender stereotype they could think of for girls and women: giggly! pink! fashion and makeup! And then tried their level best to cram it all into one three minute piece of cowdung.

Every scientist I know who has seen this? Has been offended. Every woman I know who has seen this? Really bloody offended. Good job, guys! Someone in the European Union actually paid money for this to be made! Because Europe has tons of money to waste right now! Oh wait.

Really, the stupidity displayed in this video is mind-blowing. Let’s attempt to break gender stereotype that women can’t do science… by perfectly reinforcing them. It there a ironic or satirical component to this video that I’m not seeing?

It gets better. Taken off an excellent blogpost from bakingbiologist, this was what their official Facebook page said before they changed it:

“It is the basis for our cosmetics, fashion, music and so much more.” And not about curing disease, or sustainable energy, or space exploration– it’s almost as if they were saying “leave all that to the menfolk, girls can’t possibly be interested in this!”

It’s damning, and galling, when women are not just underrepresented in science, but also undervalued due to continuing biases. The expectation that women should not be as innately good at science as men has real consequences. A campaign like this that apparently thinks science can only appeal to women if it is sufficiently girly enough? Embraces the bullshit idea that there are some things that are boy things and some things that are girl things.

No. Fuck that.

This article on gender imbalance in science is long, but it’s a good read. It points out:

One concrete factor, acting even after a woman secures a job in a STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] field, is an underrecognition of her success.  AWIS reports that, relative to the number of female PhDs and full professors in a given discipline, women are awarded fewer scholarly distinctions than men.

It goes on to say:

The lack of recognition for female STEM professionals may be tied to the observed phenomenon that women need to achieve even more than their male colleagues to be considered on equal standing.

Why?

The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) puts part of the blame on unconscious bias held by both sexes. In a study from 1999, researchers found that a group of evaluators – men and women – chose male job seekers over female candidates, even when the CVs were identical. Subjects even reported that the man applying for work had more adequate experience than the woman, although the resumes were literally identical, apart from the name at the top. Since women, too, preferred to hire “Brian” over “Karen”, the AWIS concludes that there is no “malicious intent or overt stereotyping, but rather an unconscious bias that associates science with men.”

And bullshit like this? Is really not helping.

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