"Princess Scientist" Trend Actually Discouraging Girls From Pursuing Science


The latest hotly-debated, possibly back-asswards tactic to convince girls that Science Isn’t Just For Uglies is the gimmick of the Dr. Erika Show, starring Erika Ebbel Angle, an MIT graduate, biochemist, and former Miss Massachusetts of 1994. At her tapings she wears a white lab coat and her pageant crown, a concept that led to the little girls in the audience telling the producers that they want to be “princess scientists.” Obviously, enthusiasm about science from this young demographic is awesome, but it also pushes the idea of advertising STEM for girls along steretypically-gendered lines, like you can only get their attention by scrawling about science in lipstick font or doing a cheer routine.

Considering that it’s a joke that women in science have to deal with scrutiny or stereotypes about their physical appearance at all (even Angle weighs in: “Science comes with a stigma that if you are a female scientist, you have no other interests and you are a sweatpants-wearing person who has no interest in your own physical appearance or maintenance”), the persistence of “If You Like Barbies, You’ll Love Science!”-style targeting only perpetrates the cycle of keeping women out of STEM fields.

A study from the Univerisity of Michican acknowledged that the “unfeminine” idea of the female scientist kept girls out of STEM, but added that counter-stereotypical beauty-focused STEM role models “reduced middle school girls’ current math interest, self-rated ability, and success expectations relative to gender-neutral STEM role models and depressed future plans to study math among STEM-disidentified girls.” Meanwhile, in 4th grade 66% of girls report an interest in science, math or technology: it’s only in 8th grade that when both genders are asked to draw a female scientist, they draw her looking “severe.” Or, I guess, in sweatpants.

‘Princess Scientists’ Draw Young Girls Into Science, And Plenty of Controversy’ [The Mary Sue]
Beauty Queen Alumna Teaches Science with a Tiara on TV [MIT]

Image via marco mayer/Shutterstock]

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