Making science ‘a girl thing’ | Inquirer Business

Making science ‘a girl thing’

Every October a handful of researchers, writers and humanitarians receive phone calls from Sweden that change their lives. This year, nine men became Nobel Laureates while the Peace Prize went to the European Union.

The announcements brought home the fact that while the Nobel Prize has been awarded 555 times since 1901, only 16 of the 313 scientists recognized for their work in either chemistry, physics or medicine have been female. In an aside, the Nobel Prize website notes that only 43 Laureates are female; Marie Curie was a two-time winner and the rest received either the literature, peace or economic prizes.

Such Nobel Prize statistics may explain in part why several groups around the world are focused on getting girls to remain engaged in their math and science studies and consider pursuing careers in scientific or related fields. Another part of the equation lies in the ongoing challenges faced by the growing world population.


Food production, the continuing search for sustainable and renewable energy sources, and the need to monitor and manage the environment are just a few of the global concerns that researchers are tackling. By engaging both girls and boys in science early on, and keeping them interested, organizations can help ensure future generations of stewards to deal with such concerns about the planet, among other things.


Video contest

The question of how to pique the interest of girls has led the European Science Foundation to cosponsor a video contest on YouTube that ends in late November. According to the rules, interested videographers should create a short video that creates awareness for the European Commission’s “Science, it’s a girl thing!” campaign and put them online. Videos earn votes by the number of “likes”—and the most popular video will be shown at the upcoming European Gender Summit Conference.

The video contest follows on the heels of the EC’s own promotional video for this campaign, which was pulled the same day it first appeared online. There are several reasons the EC’s “Science, it’s a girl thing!” video got people talking: the bright pink background and the pretty young girls in short skirts and high heels who appear to keep dropping powder brushes and playing with lipstick in a laboratory with plenty of smoky flasks are just a few of them.

One possible message of the video was that laboratory safety was not a concern to female scientists. Needless to say, the video inspired and provoked several responses, many of which are also online.

Gender-specific manner

I’ve often wondered whether or not the creators of the EC campaign video were inspired by a study published last year in which European researchers proposed appealing to students’ interests in a gender-specific manner in order to get them interested in studying the sciences.


As part of an experiment in using this method, they developed a presentation designed to be more “masculine” and therefore appealing to male students focused on the use of lasers to read CDs. On the other hand, the more “feminine” presentation focused on the use of lasers in cosmetic surgery.

“Girls’ interests in science could be substantially increased by presenting scientific concepts in the context of feminine topics,” the researchers concluded. It’s still hard to say whether or not liberal doses of the color pink and makeup would indeed help educators reach their target demographic.

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TAGS: gender, nobel prize, Science

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