Science. It's a girl thing.

The EU (the Commision) has launched a project "Science. It's a girl thing." With a webpage: which is not bad at all - there are roll models and all that.

I may find it a bit too pink and also the fact that the "Science it's a girl thing" is written with a lipstick, which then forms the "i" in Science may put some people off.

But then again, I am already a scientist, so I am not the intended viewer (young women age 13-18 are the target).

However, there has been a lot of controversy about a video made to launch the campaign. It has now been taken off the website, but it is of course still available on the vast internet. Here, for instance:

I find it sexist, stupid, stereotyping and many other things. For example, the male scientist (obviously, he has glasses and a microscope), who is then distracted by girls in stiletto heels.

I am very pleased that they took it off the webpage, but I am wondering who got the idea for it in the first place. And how they convinced each other, that this would be a good idea.

I am in favour of humour in such campaigns, of challenging the stereotypes and so forth, but I think they miss the mark completely.

Here is a very good reply by Meghan Gray, Astronomer at the University of Nottingham

Here is another reason for not liking it. There has been an experiment which seems to say, that a video like that will alienate both girls who were interested in science and those who were not

What do you think ? The video is of course not on the EC website anymore, but it is still worth a discussion. How do we get attention and good PR without overdoing it. And is it even overdoing it?


For information of EWM, here is the text of the open letter of the European Platform of Women Scientists

  Open Letter

Dear Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn,

The European Platform of Women Scientists EPWS would like to express its serious concern about the contradictory and sexist messages sent out by the European Commission campaign “Science: It’s a girl thing!” that aims to attract young girls and women into science. We fully acknowledge that the aim of this campaign is extremely important and timely, and EPWS warmly supports European Commission actions of this kind.

However, the video used to launch the campaign has appalled not only us but a large number of scientists across the world, male and female, young and old, as well as parents of future female scientists, by its naive, sexist and one-dimensional portrayal of girls of today. We note that after unusually extensive protests in the media and social media the video has now been withdrawn from the campaign website. However, some questionable elements are still in place like the image of lipstick replacing the letter “I” in the logo and the logo written as with lipstick.

The campaign press release states: “The campaign will challenge stereo-types of science and show young girls and women that science is fun and can provide great opportunities. It will challenge outdated views of science careers and show how contemporary research practices are connected with societal needs.” The connection of girls and science in the video is hard to grasp. What the video shows is grossly stereotypical and sexualized images of young women cat-walking and posing in the fashion magazine or Music TV style in short skirts and high heels, with lipstick and nail polish as important accessories. A male scientist is practically ogling the girls in a suggestive manner – should the girls learn to expect that sexual harassment might take place in the lab? The girls in the video seem to be more interested in how they look and are looked at than in anything else – hardly in a career in science?

This video does not challenge but subscribe to outdated stereotypes of women and girls – and how this is thought to attract different kinds of girls into science is indeed difficult to fathom. The video also fails in that it presents a far too narrow vision of science, evidencing that its creators do not really understand the broad scope contemporary science deals with.

We have learned that the Commission used a background advisory group of gender experts in the early planning phase of the campaign. That they appar-ently were not kept on to give continuous feedback throughout the planning may explain why such hugely misjudged advertising material could be accepted to be released in the name of the European Commission.

The European Commission has done high-quality and highly influential work to promote gender equality and women in science – both in close consultation with the scientific community. We strongly urge the European Commission to build future campaigns of this kind in closer consultation with gender experts and well-informed stakeholders in the field such as the European Platform of Women Scientists EPWS and other women scientist networks.

Dr. Brigitte Mühlenbruch EPWS President

On there is a discussion of the video. There is also a link to an explanation/ excuse from the EU-commision.

They argue among other things, that the cost of the video was only a small fraction of the budget for the campaign. This fraction is 102.000 Euro....
Conslusion: The campaign has a huge budget. So let us hope they use the rest of it wisely. And perhaps join it as role models - they ask for that actually.

A smart and constructive way of replying to the unfortunately famous
Science, it 's a girl thing !

Science it’s your thing video contest

The winners

The candidates