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High Heels In The Lab?

A few weeks ago, I was alerted to a study carried out at the University of Michigan which stated that feminine scientists may actually do more harm than good in promoting their disciplines.

After further reading, the results were proposed after two small studies - polling just 186 girls in total. The findings showed that women scientists who ‘glamorised STEM subjects’ and exhibited feminine qualities were found to be ‘less motivating’ and ‘seemed to shut the girls’ minds to new possibilities further’. It seemed that the girls polled saw being successful at STEM subjects whilst maintaining femininity as highly unlikely, and therefore not attainable.

This isn’t the first time an argument like this has surfaced. You might be reminded of Dr. Charlotte Uhlenbroek and Prof. Mary Beard who have remarked on, or had to defend, their looks. And just this week, I saw the European Commission's campaign, designed to attract more women into a career in science. Putting it mildly, the video on YouTube has received a bit of criticism. Watch it for yourself and see what you think.

Whilst I have no idea of the nature of the images shown to the girls in the Michigan studies (just how caricatured were they?), I found the whole article alarming. I wonder if it will make ‘girly’ scientists question their own image, at least for a moment.

Regional Coordinators help to diminish gender stereotypes. A great example is how Chemistry at Work events, which are run around the country, aim to open young people’s minds into the diversity of skills and range of roles chemists can have. Chemistry at Work's success relies on passionate speakers, who are keen to share their knowledge through hands-on activities. If you would like to be involved or for more information, contact your local Regional Coordinator.
Joanna Buckley is RSC Regional Coordinator for North East England and works with the education team. Contact her at Joanna.Buckley@sheffield.ac.uk
Posted by Joanna Buckley on Jun 25, 2012 4:19 PM Europe/London

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