Salon.com recently featured an article that discussed the European Commission’s recent campaign to get more girls into science. The main topic was this video, released by the EC:
The article came out strongly against the video and the campaign. Watching the video, I do think it’s a bit over the top, but is it really that bad to inject a little bit of girliness into STEM? My personal feeling is that in general, it’s not, and I think it may be necessary to some degree. I’ll explain more below.
I do find it more than a little annoying that the girls in this video are all wearing super short miniskirts/dresses. Seeing as how it is aimed at teenage girls, I think they should have chosen outfits that are a little more modest. But I understand that they were trying to make it “cool”. I also find the lipstick for the letter “I” irritating – that just wasn’t necessary, EC!
However, let’s face facts: women are different than men. We like to wear makeup and dresses, even those of us who work in STEM fields. I’m an electrical engineer, and I like girly stuff like dresses, flower patterns, and highlights. I wear nice clothes and makeup, and everyone at work always thinks I’m “dressed up” (this is just what I wear all the time, people! Get over it!). There is a stereotype of people working in STEM fields – lab coats, no makeup, old men, disheveled hair, etc. And er…that does fit the description of many folks in these fields, women included, but certainly not all of us. And back when there were NO women in these fields, certainly that is pretty much all there was – men in lab coats with no makeup, jewelry, or pink to be found (because men don’t wear that stuff, natch).
The Salon.com article states that:
Yes, do go on about how glamorous and pretty science is, because if chicks can’t equate veterinary virology with dresses and manicures, they’re just not going for it.
The goal that we (the EC, me, the Salon.com writer, etc) have in common is that we would like to see more women in STEM fields. So, to join these fields, should women have to give up the trappings of womanhood? I think not. I find the above statement extremely confining. It casts a negative light on women in STEM fields who want to be…well, women. It’s poking sarcasm at women who don’t want to follow the old, male way of doing things. If we as women are to be considered truly as equals in these fields, then we should be free to be ourselves – glamor and “pretty” and all. And I do think that it is necessary to break down those stereotypes if we are to get more women into these careers, because the fact is that many smart young women also enjoy their manicures.
There is true beauty to be found in science and technology, and I think women are especially good at finding it. One good thing about the video, I thought, is that it does show that same beauty that I see. Women bring something special to the table, so let’s allow each of us to be ourselves. If this video makes young women take a second look at STEM careers, then I am more than OK with it.
What do you think?