Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Girlz can Science 2!

And soon they’ll realize they should ditch those trendy sunglasses for equally trendy safety goggles. And they get to work on make up, just like every girls dream! And really, they get to spend most of their time dancing with their friends while the one smart girl does all confusing mathy stuff.

At least that’s what the European Comission thought would get the attention of its girls in their recent advertisement “Science: It’s a Girl Thing”. The 30 second commercial is an effort by the EC to bolster the number of female students entering in the sciences. It hasn’t really been met with any hostility, but instead with a sly grin and a condescending pat on the head. I get what they’re trying to do, teenage girls DO care about make-up, and their friends, and having fun, but the commercial is way over the top, and pigeonholes the girls it is trying to convince to join the ranks of the science world.

While the commercial is 30 seconds of pure ridiculousness, the rest campaign seems to be pretty solid. The website, http://science-girl-thing.eu/, gives teenage girls a chance to explore their prospects in what is becoming a more and more lucrative field. There’s a photo contest where teenage girls can express what science is to them, there’s a quiz to help the girls figure out which aspects of science they might be interested in, there’s fun facts and dream job descriptions, and all of this is done on a slick and accessible website.

Thanks to efforts like this, the ratio of men to women is skewed, but it’s getting better. In 2007 three men received a science degree for every two women. The women that did get science degrees tended to lean towards more knowledge based sciences such as biology and psychology, and avoid more mathematical subjects such as engineering, physics and computer science. One of the main causes of this concentration is, of course, society’s misinformed belief that men are better at math, but a more poignant reason is that young women who join these science departments will likely be surrounded by males. The problem has become self-perpetuating. Women don’t want to join the physics department because they’ll be the only female, and because there are no women, the next set of potential female physicists don’t join either.

The “Science: It’s a Girl Thing” campaign is working hard to get young women to join, but they are faced with another significant problem commonly referred to as the leaky pipeline. Little girls love science, but as they move to high school less become interested (for whatever reasons). As they move into university even more drop off, and so on through masters and PHD degrees, with the smallest amount finally ending up working in academia. Every step of the way a significant amount more women move away from the sciences; to start working, to raise families, to join alternate fields; than men. If this trend is to stop, the campaign will need to evolve. It will need to find ways to keep women interested in the sciences that they join.

The campaigns intentions are good, even if the execution was a bit bumbling. An influx of women into a generally male dominated field will be advantageous and is a necessity if I am ever to get my chance to jump around in space.  

Check out the video here

And the “Science: It’s a Girl Thing” website here

Also, this one’s pretty interesting.

By Matthew Ariss

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