The role of gender has arisen in many a conversation in my science social circles as of late. Friend and fellow contributor to Australian Science Danielle Spencer sent the video “Science: It’s a Girl Thing!” a few weeks back. (You can view it below.) I had never seen it, but is has sure stuck with me. It’s an eyebrow raiser in my opinion. Viewing this well-produced, glossy video conjured up images of a James Bond feature film opener. (It is a European Commission production.) Smoke and mirrors, silhouettes, high heels, seems more of a teenybopper fashion show. Where is the relationship to science?
I see beakers for measuring liquids, microscopes, and atomic elements and verbally hear the word science, but references to makeup and the overuse of pink cascading across the screen as a spilled bottle of nail lacquer might, I fail to see the relevance.
Though to be fair, chemistry plays a quite a significant role in the production of cosmetics. And it is a $200+ billion dollar global industry. I got quite the kick out of teasing my brother who after college worked at P&G testing lipstick and diapers to ensure the products did not cause allergic reactions. (His role was in quality control and documenting participants’ feedback.) It’s an important role in the consumer products industry, to be sure.
If the goal was to increase interest in and motivate girls to pursue careers in science, I think the video falls short. Sure it exudes fun, but fun about what? Fun in being a marine biologist? Fun in pursuing a career in biopharmaceutical research? Fun in developing advanced robotics for use in outer space?
The clip has more of a cheerleader appeal than it does in the effort to encourage girls in their science education. (But, everyone can use someone in his or her corner cheering him or her on now and then.) It’s no wonder the video was taken down due to numerous complaints. I personally do not think science is a girl thing, or a boy thing, in the bigger picture, it has been and should remain to be a thing for humankind. Yes, men largely dominate the field. Women make choices to pursue science or another field for employment. What we need to do is to ensure that girls, and boys, are exposed to and supported in their science studies at an early age. Because science, it’s a fun thing.
Image: Varying views of women’s role in science. Photo Attribution: By Merwart [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons