When someone says “Scientist”, what do you picture? Probably a grey-haired, slightly eccentric man in a lab coat. This also seems to be what the media pictures, given the number of older, male scientists on television.
The majority of top-level researchers are men, so it makes sense that if a journalist needs to find an expert quickly, chances are they’re going to find a man. However, what does this apparent monopoly on scientific research say to the teenage girls who see these programmes?
The number of girls studying STEM subjects at A Level is increasing, but they are still outnumbered by boys. Girls are often told that science is not for them, and are intimidated when they try to break into the ‘boys’ club’. When the Everyday Sexism Project asked women to Tweet their experiences of sexism in science, they got dozens of responses (although some, to be fair, were positive).
One way of combatting this attitude would be to show more female scientists in the media. When girls see scientists such as Dr Alice Roberts on TV, they can relate to her and think “She was like me once, so if she can do it, then so can I”. Having visible role models in the media encourages girls to take an interest in science, and to continue to study it even when it’s no longer mandatory for them to do so.
Forget being the next Beyoncé, girls – it’s far cooler to be the next Amy Farrah Fowler! (Well, maybe).