Is gender really THE issue in science education?

The catastrophic social media fail of the Science: It’s a girl thing video

unfortunately overshadowed the actual campaign.

Nevertheless, I began wondering if “Science: it’s a girl thing” makes much sense at all. There is research out that indicates that girls have some inhibitions taking up science depending on gender role stereotypes. However, there is also research out that provides more comprehensive reasons such as peer pressure, expectation and discourse in their schools and families, confidence, social class, cultural and ethnic background. Some research suggest that depending on other factors gender is not always the preeminent inhibiting factor.

How much sense does a campaign make, that feels very much like a drawn out advertisement for ‘coolness’? When the ‘cool factor’ is only one of a variety of much more significant inhibitors? Such as rethinking didactic of STEM at school level. How is maths, biology, physics and chemistry actually taught and what in the approach to teaching and the attitude of teachers creates inhibitions in taking up science related careers?

The campaign itself feels full of good intentions that were not thought through. It is hardly good practice to launch a campaign without having finished the website. Alas, these things happen. So I expected when exploring the campaign’s website to find the two most crucial parts: the Quiz and the alleged Dream Jobs. But both these links were empty. At least today the Quiz page tells you that the quiz will come by 1st September. I hope the aim of the quiz is to demonstrate to everyone interested in science that overcoming the threshold for involvement is actually not difficult. I hope the quiz will establish relevant links to day to day life and address confidence issues. And I sincerely hope that the quiz does not merely relate its questions to the cosmetics and fashion industries.

Meanwhile the actual campaign video’s on the sciencegirlthing YouTube Channel are definitely worthwhile to pass on to any pupil who might be interested.

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2 thoughts on “Is gender really THE issue in science education?

  1. Hm, interesting stuff, thanks for posting! STEM and gender is definitely an important topic, thought tbh I feel that ‘SCIENCE: It’s a girl thing’ supports gender stereotypes rather than challenges them. Is that what you’re also saying? A gender-neutral or -challenging video would be all about girls being intrinsically interested in science not because they’re girls (and therefore want to know how to create make-up) but because STEM subjects are really cool! Which thy are! I heard a great talk on this last winter by Margaret Eisenhardt from U of Boulder, Co. She’s doing a multi-billion dollar research project on STEM and gender. You should create a google alert if you’re interested so that you can hear about her research once she starts publishing!

    • Yes, that was my point. I wanted to highlight that science is interesting and that decisions should not be made because you are or you are not a girl.
      I am aware of the gender inequalities in sciences, yet I fail to see the actual benefit a campaign that highlights stereotypes can have.
      Experiential: I also know women who build bridges, roads, factories, or are neuro-surgeons and they did not make their decisions based on gender but based on interest and ability. If I am not great at maths and I am a girl how could a campaign like this possibly change this? Had I had a really good maths teacher that would not have answered each of my questions with: We have to assume this, this is a given. I might have studied quantum physics ;P

      So all in all while gender has an impact, it is not the only issue that needs addressing (and certainly not in that format!) to improve the situation.

      Will definitely go straight to my Google subscriptions! 🙂

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