The European Commission’s Women in Research and Innovation initiative got slammed hard last week for its video “Science: It’s A Girl Thing” designed to promote science to young women.
The Research and Innovation website looks promising at first glance. At the top of the page – inspirational questions and affirmations: Want to save lives? Keen to find out what’s lurking in the nether regions of space, or in the deepest ocean trench? Passionate about the environment! Do something about it!
Yes! Right on. And then, a list of “reasons science needs you” which are all linked to holistic, tangible, social issues like healthcare, safety and clean energy. Good so far.
But, then comes a huge misstep. This video:
Women in high-heals and sunglasses. Incredibly good hair and pink nail polish, lipstick transforming into test tubes, face powder morphing into steamy lab beakers, and a dashingly handsome male scientist who’s equal parts confused and excited by these new female imposters. Kinda reminds me of a Britney Spears music video. Maybe that’s the point.
But what’s the take-away here? If you’re not cute enough to get your male coworker to look up from his microscope then don’t bother going into science? Could this video do any more to reinforce gender stereotypes and turn off would-be scientists of the albeit fairer sex?
Twitter was on fire after the video went live with comments like: “No extra women got into science but 89% of viewers vomited” and “This EU Commission movie to get women into science is packed with painful patronizing clichés.” While others like biology lecturer and science-book reviewer Joanne Manaster posted links to more appropriate videos: “THIS is how to inspire young women to go into science! http://fb.me/1FjfsnW7y.
Check out all the comments on Twitter at #sciencegirlthing
After the backlash, the European Commission took the video down from its site and posted a documentary-style film profiling “real” women in science.
But perhaps there’s a silver lining. Lots of people saw the first video, it drove a ton of traffic to the Women in Research and Innovation website (which actually has a pretty solid message – if you’re willing to overlook the Bunsen-burner babes) and it’s provoked a conversation amongst female scientists who can provide valuable resources and mentorship to young women everywhere.
What do you think of the video? What’s the best way to get more women interested in STEM?