Monday, July 9, 2012

"Science: It's a Girl Thing"

Recently, the following video has caused a bit of a stir in the scientific community - especially among female scientists. Although it was intended to encourage girls to study science, it relies heavily on stereotypes and outdated ideas of what women are interested in.

"This video was published by the European Commission for a campaign designed to attract more women to a career in science. The commission said that the video had to "speak their language to get their attention" and that it was intended to be "fun, catchy" and strike a chord with young people. "I would encourage everyone to have a look at the wider campaign and the many videos already online of female researchers talking about their jobs and lives."

First of all: Did you notice the open-toed shoes that were being worn in the lab? That's definitely not something you want to do. In my opinion, this video is a result of poor judgement on the part of the advertising agency. Were any real scientists consulted in the making of this video? Did they actually talk to any middle-school or high-school girls about their interests? The pop music, girls striking sultry poses for no apparent reason, and shots of exploding makeup are slightly painful to watch, because they come off as stereotypical and pandering.

When I was in high school, the girls I knew in my science classes were there because we actually found the the subject interesting. Outside of the classroom, it was no different. In high school, I remember taking care of fish and small turtles, learning to program, and reading Wired and New Scientist with fascination. If we want to genuinely inspire girls to develop their own interest in science, wouldn't it be sensible to show them what it's actually about? (One could argue that cosmetic companies do hire scientists to formulate makeup and such, but that is after years of study in chemistry.)

Do you think this promotional video is effective? The comments are open.

Liz Allen is a second-year Computer Science student, and leads a double life as a musician.