• Sun, Dec 9 2012

Video: Sexy Lady Scientists May Actually Get Our Daughters Excited About Careers In Science

My daughter wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. So does your daughter. Or else she wants to be a teacher, or a ballerina, or a veterinarian, or a princess. When my daughter tells me “Mommy, when I grow up I want to be a fashion designer” I answer her with “By fashion designer, you mean a physicist riiiiiight?”

Not that there is anything wrong with being a fashion designer, or a ballerina, or a teacher. These are all perfectly wonderful careers for any person to have, but while some moms fantasize about their daughter’s wedding day or her winning an Oscar or becoming President, I fantasize about mine winning a Nobel Prize. Science is awesome you guys, and sadly a lot of girls don’t pursue careers in the field of science for numerous reasons, as outlined here:

Recent studies have refuted claims that there is an innate difference in abilities between the sexes; instead, these studies suggest that the smaller proportions of girls pursuing careers in math and science in the United States may be caused by cultural differences and expectations (University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2009).

Three strategies related to self-efficacy that have some degree of research support are (1) teaching students that academic abilities are not fixed, but expandable and improvable, (2) exposing girls to female role models who have succeeded in math and science, and (3) providing informational feedback.

So if we need to expose our girls to female role models in the fields of math and science, these ladies who are a group of Bristol psychologists have done the work for us, all in a kickass video that shows lady scientists being ladies and acting just like any other lady in a slickly produced music video, except they wear more clothing.

Even though this is a parody video done in response to a really sad video produced by the European Commission entitled “Science: It’s a Girl Thing,” this video actually does more than poke fun at the EC’s depiction of lady scientists, it is actually very inspiring, especially when you see the credits of the ladies at the end of the video, with their PhDs in neuroscience and MScs in animal behavior.

I want more from these women! I want more videos talking about what their careers entail and a website with articles aimed at young girls and T-shirts.  My daughter is still young enough where she will change her career path numerous times, and at her young age, she still excels in science. I’m just happy that I have some new role models to show her in a different field other than Vera Wang interviews on You Tube.

(photo: Avesun /shutterstock)

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  • Rattata

    Personal story time! I was always the smart kid in my grade growing up, and my mom is a vet. Everybody built me up as super smart and always asked me if I wanted to be a vet when I grew up. However, I am much better at history and english which comes easily to me than I am at science. Now I’m in university and I feel extremely extremely extremely guilty for studying history and wanting to be either a teacher or a lawyer because I feel like I should have gone into science because that’s what everyone expected of me. However, I have anxiety issues and I know I don’t want to be a scientist anyway. So please, don’t pressure your daughter/force her to love science and shame her (my mom never did by the way, but I still feel like a disappointment) for wanting to do something you don’t consider “ideal”. Just because someone is smart does not mean it’s their job to be a role model for everyone else. That just leads to guilt when someone who got a 70 in chemistry class is studying it while you who got an 83 just never got into it. Just my opinion, though! :p

  • Cee

    First, as Rattata said. Don’t push your daughter to become something she does not want to be.

    Secondly, I don’t think a sexy lady science video is necessary. What I do think is necessary is to expose children to science at an early age. Children default to the two professions they are exposed to the most…doctor and teacher (tv shows later develop a more imaginary pursuit..superstar, superhero, ninja). If teachers in elementary schools were allowed to teach more science (art and history!) as well and educated students on possible careers in subjects they take a liking to, children in general would be more open to different professions as they get older. I know many students, from elementary to high school age, that love subjects, like science or history, but have NO IDEA on the possible careers they can have with it.
    Take it from me, I loved history and did not know I could major in it and teach it, become a librarian, work for a museum, or get into law school with it!

  • Daisy

    I think sexy scientists are the opposite of helpful. You know what is totally not sexy at all? Lab coats. And they all have buttons on the man side because nobody sells lady lab coats (at least not at my university). You have to have your hair pulled back in lab. No contacts in chem labs, or some bio labs, just glasses. And then you need safety goggles that fit over those glasses. Long pants only, and no ballet flats or other shoes that leave a single speck of skin exposed.
    Girls should absolutely be encouraged to go into science, but let’s be honest about it right from the start. If you are working with any kind of chemicals or bodily fluids, you will never look pretty doing it.
    And I would also concur with Rattata. In high school, I had a 97 in Grade 12 Bio, and “only” a 92 in chemistry. Now, I’m doing a Bio degree, and I’m forced to take a few chem classes, most of which I’ve had to retake, because I hate them so much and am so bad at lab. Also, if you’re “smart,” universities really force research on you. Do an independent study, work in a prof’s lab for the summer, write an undergrad thesis, go to grad school. Honestly, I am not even remotely interested in original research. I love science and I love learning, but surely there has to be something else “smart” to do with it besides research? So don’t force something on someone if they don’t want it, and don’t ever make them feel like just because they’re smart, they “have” to take a particular road in life. For some people, chem lab is just plain traumatizing.

  • SusanP

    So many things wrong with this – where to begin. I am a female Scientist, happily married to an Engineer, and we have four children – 2 boys, 2 girls.
    First – Rattata pretty much sums up my feelings about “pushing” your child into certain careers. As a mother, I want my children to find something they are passionate about and run with it. That being said – I’m going to expose my sons and daughters to all sorts of things so they can find their passion. My 8yo son has said from the time he was 4 that he wants to be a teacher. I’m not going to steer him away even though it’s currently not the most glamourous/high paying career. If it’s truly his passion – he will be successful, and I will be proud. I’ve had many academic and career success, but I know what makes my parents most proud is that I’m a good mother.
    Next – WHY does a career have to be SEXY for a girl to be interested in it?!?! Do we sit and worry about how sexy the potential career choices of our sons are? Oh – be a Doctor – that is sexy. Be a fireman – THAT is sexy. Blah – I don’t think so. So where did this thinking come from for our girls?? Besides – as Daisy points out – male or female – Science is not Sexy. Have you seen Big Bang Theory? It’s VERY accurate. I did my undgrad in Physics/Math, My masters in Materials Science Engineering, and have worked the last 13 years in Semiconductors. Men considered “Sexy” are few and far between. And for the few women – In my line of work you cannot wear any sort of fancy shoe or sandal, NO Make up allowed whatsover, no perfume, etc. I actually prefer it that way because at work I want to be judged for my brain and abilities.
    Finally – I agree that our culture is a huge influence. That is why we try to limit what our children are exposed to. No Cable TV for starters. And we are very selective in what they do watch and read, and what toys we buy. Instead of finding female scientists who are “sexy”, we should be teaching our girls that there is more to them than how they look or what they wear.

  • Diane Aguilar

    First of all, I’m extremely disappointed that so many of you guys are automatically on the defensive and going, “No, this is a bad idea,” etc. There are far too few women involved in the STEMs, and that’s not because the STEMs are a boys’ club (in fact, there are few disciplines I’ve observed that are as girl-friendly as engineering). I’m sick to death of women who hate math or science trying to foist their anti-math or -science attitudes onto other women or girls, and wonder if that plays at least some minor role in why there is such a deficit in women in the STEMs.

    Secondly, this is a FUCKING CAREER we’re talking about. Careers are supposed to be about work first and foremost. So dressing ANY career up as “sexy” = automatic fail. I would rather deal with a real estate agent who is dressed in sensible flats and a comfy pants suit than one who is dressed to the nines, with a tight dress and high heels. My favorite banker is one who wears “dowdy” pumps and a conservative skirt suit because it allows her to pull off the appropriate image while feeling professional and confident. We should not be expecting high fashion in ANY career, STEM or non-STEM.

    I’m involved in a STEM — I work as a software engineer and my main focus is on database management. I would estimate my work place is comprised of 70% males, 30% females if you’re talking about the actual compugeeks who work here (the ratio is about 50/50 when you talk about HR, security officers, etc.). There are all sorts of ethnicities and races represented in my work place and it’s an equal opportunity employer. I’m close to a couple of people in HR and know they reach out as much as they can to women, but there’s only so far you can go. Which is really sad because I feel like there’d be more camaraderie amongst the women at my work place if there were more women here.

    I also think part of the blame for the female deficit in the STEM fields has to lie with the females’ home lives while growing up. I think if we were to take our female children and instill in them a natural curiosity about the world, that would encourage more girls to look more seriously at the STEM disciplines. Another thing I think is key is to discourage mothers from being vain. Stay with me here — my mother wasn’t vain at all. She was extremely low-maintenance and didn’t really bother that much with primping or keeping up with fashions. She also didn’t subscribe to any magazines save for Good Housekeeping (and that was mainly for the recipes). Her main priorities were in being a good employee, wife, and mother, and maintaining the household. I think that encouraged me to look outside the stereotypical fluffy, “girly” dream jobs of being a princess or ballerina and more toward things that actually caught my intellectual curiosity as a child — meteorologist or pharmaceutical research chemist. Because of my mother’s influence on me and how I viewed womanhood to be, I was never dazzled by poofy, high-maintenance, soft, “girly” bullshit but was guided first and foremost by what excited me from within.

    BTW, don’t discount the need for there to be more women in the STEMs. The fact that there is still such a paucity of women in those disciplines is one major contributing factor as to why there is still a substantial income gap between the genders. If we get more girls interested in the STEMs, we’ll see the income gap narrow.