Why Girls Appearing as Scientists is an Advertising Trend that Needs to Stay

Within the past few weeks, two major brands have released adverts that show young girls embracing science and scientific careers. Those behind Barbie released an advert called ‘Imagine the possibilities’, that asks “What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?” The advert shows young girls as doctors, football coaches, lecturers and veterinarians – all careers that require some scientific knowledge.

Then we see this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert released today. It features a girl using a telescope to look out her window at the man on the moon. John Lewis could easily have had this character as a young boy, but they chose not to.

Let’s look at some statistics taken from a recent blog post on The Guardian website about women in science:

  • According to the Women in Science and Engineering (Wise) campaign’s latest analysis of UK labour market statistics, women make up just 12.8% of the Stem workforce. The proportion had increased by only 0.2 percentage points since their analysis in 2012.
  • The latest Higher Education and Skills Agency (HESA) statistics showed that in 2013-14 52% of male undergraduates were enrolled on a science course compared to 40% of females.The gap increases when you get to postgraduate level, with 46% of male students on a science course compared with 34% of female ones.
  • In 2014 there were more male than female participants in all major A-level Stem subjects with the exception of biology, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications.
  • For the physics examination, 78.9% of those sitting the exam were boys. The proportion of those sitting it that were female decreased between 2013 and 2014 despite it increasing (albeit modestly) in all of the other core Stem subjects.
  • A recent OECD study found that girls lacked confidence in science and maths, even when their results were as good or better than boys’

Whilst these adverts may seem gimmicky at the moment, they are so important and should be treated as so. Adverts are produced to consistently drum messages into our heads, this message for once could be a message for a force of change. This year maybe people will think twice about buying their niece or daughter a chemistry set for Christmas, rather than picking up the first pink item they see. Maybe they will consider buying a non fiction book about science, rather than a book about Judy Moody. We are all guilty of this stereotyping. We are all guilty of teaching young girls around us that they should want to be actresses, teachers or writers when they grow up. This advertising trend is a trend that needs to stay because this kind of constant positive reinforcement can go a really long way to create a completely different world.

For more information about the Wise campaign click here, and to watch both videos see below:




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