Skip to main content

Science: It's a Girl Thing! 3 Years Later...

(Disclaimer: I maybe two or three years late, but this is still an important issue, so it wouldn't hurt to address it today.)

I was “googl-ing” other science and/or chemistry blogs to read and I came across this video here:

This video was published by the European Commission for a campaign designed to attract more women to a career in science. The commission said that the video had to "speak their language to get their attention" and that it was intended to be "fun, catchy" and strike a chord with young people. "I would encourage everyone to have a look at the wider campaign and the many videos already online of female researchers talking about their jobs and lives.”The original video was taken down after it received so many negative comments.

This video is a teaser for a campaign aimed at girls aged 13-17 years old who might not consider science as ac career to look into science careers. The campaign had a website and Facebook page showing profiles of 12 female scientists and their experiences within their career along with competitions, prize and events.  The message of the video was to try and make science (and chemistry in particular) appeal to girls who are preparing their choices in A levels which will then take them onto university. 

The problem with this video is that it is trying to get girls to break the stereotype of “girls don’t study science subjects” by advertising it with an even worse stereotype. To me the video looks like an advertisement to a fashion show more than a campaign to encourage girls to pick chemistry over any other subject. The awful stereotype of pink, makeup and nail varnish is just so garish and distracting from the main message of the campaign, which explains why the video was removed quickly after it got a lot of negative comments. Michael Jennings, spokesperson for the research, innovation and science unit, tweeted:
#sciencegirlthing aims to attract women to science. Launch video distracting from that. It has gone.
This is the correct thing to do when an advertisement doesn't reflect the product correctly. Since it has been 3 years since the initiation of this campaign, I wanted to look at the statistics of the ratios of males and females studying science subject (results are from the BBC, in the United Kingdom). In 2012 (when the video was released) the percentage of girls studying Biology were 55% female and 45% male, for Chemistry the percentages were 50% female 50% male and for Physics only 20% female and 80% male.
BBC News 2012 A level admissions.
(Note: It’s been difficult to find similar statistics to that of the BBC's of males and females studying science subjects online so please excuse the fact that I don’t have all the statistics I wanted to complete this blog post- thank you!)
UCAS released the results, of 2014, that female have actually been outperforming males in exams and university admissions and they found that there were 20,000 more males than females entering courses in STEM (science, technology and engineering and maths).  Proving there is still a large gender gap in science subjects.
Personally I went to a mixed school and sixth-form and there were only 4 girls in class of roughly 20 studying chemistry and similar in physics. So there definitely was a big gender gap in the STEM subjects so it is obvious that there is a need for more campaigns which can give girls a better insight into science subjects which could encourage them to fill the gap and initiate a science career.

Why girls don’t chose science at A Levels

Lack of knowledge of future courses

When your pick your future subjects it’s important to know that there are a lot of courses you may not have heard of which might interest you more than the traditional / famous courses. So make sure you do a good search around courses you like and you might be surprised.

Teachers treating physics as a male subject

The BBC recently reported that apparently state schools 
in the UK perceive physics as a subject aimed at males, most physics teachers are males and so are the students, making it an “Physics sciences are seen as a make dominated are” Dr Heather Williams (medical physicist working for NS and Head of Science Grrl). This phenomenon partially blames the fact that there is not enough “female physicist as role models” which could encourage girls to continue onto a physics career which could potentially open more career doors for them.

Didn’t like GCSE and/or A levels course

One female student writing in the Guardian felt that she did not enjoy studying physics at GCSE even though it was not difficult but she didn’t feel like she could apply to real life and the course did not thrill her, so she didn’t choose it. She also commented that just because she didn’t pick physics, doesn’t mean she fits into the stereotype of “girls don’t pick that kind of subject”, she is entitled to pick whatever she wants without being judged into a stereotype.

Personal preference

After all girls are not statistics and girls can choose what they want despite the stereotypes (how many times have I said stereotypes in this post??).  When it comes to thinking about your own career, only you can decide what you want to study and build your career in. With access to the internet being easily available to everyone, you can easily research the different types of career that are available and make your own decision based on what appeals to you. If you want to become the next Marie Curie or the next Coco Chanel it is your choice and nobody should pressurise you into feeling otherwise; even if there are campaigns to try and inspire you to choose something different.
Creating her own way By Frits Ahlefeldt




  1. Ironically it's true that teachers treat physics as a male subject. Even if girls study these subjects they could not apply them to real life. Many obstacles are there in their way which prevent girls to go ahead and choose the Science stream. So determination and efforts required to improve the scenario. That's true that many girls outperform boys in STEM courses but still when it comes to a career choice, very few go ahead. Today's investments to improve the number of women in the science stream will definitely boost tomorrow's economy. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.


Post a Comment