Check out the latest research from the University of Washington. It confirms what we all thought: the images and stereotypes about scientists deter girls from wanting to pursue careers in this area. When scientists are portrayed as geeky and socially inept, girls lose interest regardless of whether the scientists portrayed are male or female. This paints a more complicated picture in how to address the serious under-representation of women in computer science and engineering. We need to get rid of these outdated and false stereotypes.
Although the study concerned computer science and engineers, it can equally apply to other branches of science. The conclusions of this study doesn’t seem surprising to me, since people want to work in interesting and rewarding environments, although it is nice to see it in a published research article.
There have been efforts to dispel these myths, one of my favorites being “This is what a scientist looks like,” but progress is slow. For example, recent blockbuster films do nothing to dispel these myths, with biopics about Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking.
We would love for the media to represent us as we are – a varied and complex group of human beings, with a powerful curiosity that leads us to ask questions and want to understand things. Check out some of IDRI’s profiles of our scientists in all fields to see how different we are .
And yes – girls – come and join us – being a scientist is AWESOME!