Tag Archives: Science: It’s a Girl Thing

Science…For Her!—a book for those of us who like our science to be funny

The book, Science…For Her!, written by Megan Amram, a comedy writer whose credits include the Kroll Show and Parks and Recreation (US television programmes, won’t be available until Nov. 4, 2014 but it can be pre-ordered at Barnes & Noble or Powell’s (I figure Amazon gets enough advertising and I want to help bookstores that have a bricks & mortar presence, as well as, an online presence).

Thanks to David Bruggeman and the April 23, 2014 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog where I first learned of this upcoming book (Note: Links have been removed),

There’s another science mashup coming your way later this year.  It’s a textbook written by comedy writer (Parks and Recreation) Megan Amram.  Science…For Her! comes out November 4, and stands a chance of provoking the same kind of reaction as the initial video for the European Commission’s campaign – ‘Science, it’s a girl thing‘.

For anyone unfamiliar with the European Commission’s campaign, check out Olga Khazan’s June 22, 2012 Washington Post story (h/t David Bruggeman) which is a relatively kind comment in comparison to some of the other responses to the campaign some of which I chronicled in my July 6, 2012 posting about it.

Getting back to Science…For Her!, here’s a bit more about the book from an April 22, 2014 posting by Madeleine Davies for Jezebel,

Of the book, Amram writes:

Science…For Her! is a science textbook written by a lady (me) for other ladies (you, the Spice Girls, etc.) It has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history: female brains aren’t biologically constructed to understand scientific concepts, and tiny female hands aren’t constructed to turn most textbooks’ large, extra-heavy covers.

Finally, a science textbook for us.

[downloaded from http://meganamram.tumblr.com/post/83522299626/science-for-her]

[downloaded from http://meganamram.tumblr.com/post/83522299626/science-for-her]

As David notes elsewhere in his April 23, 2014 posting, the cover has a very ‘Cosmo’ feel with titles such as ‘orgasms vs. organisms’ and ‘sexiest molecules’. The Barnes & Noble ‘Science…For Her Page!, offers more details,

Megan Amram, one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment,” Rolling Stone’s “25 Funniest People on Twitter,” and a writer for NBC’s hit show Parks and Recreation, delivers a politically, scientifically, and anatomically incorrect “textbook” that will have women screaming with laughter, and men dying to know what the noise is about.

In the vein of faux expert books by John Hodgman and Amy Sedaris, Science…for Her! is ostensibly a book of science written by a denizen of women’s magazines. Comedy writer and Twitter sensation Megan Amram showcases her fiendish wit with a pitch-perfect attack on everything from those insanely perky tips for self-improvement to our bizarre shopaholic dating culture to the socially mandated pursuit of mind-blowing sex to the cringe-worthy secret codes of food and body issues.

Part hilarious farce, part biting gender commentary, Amram blends Cosmo and science to highlight absurdities with a machine-gun of laugh-inducing lines that leave nothing and no one unscathed. Subjects include: this Spring’s ten most glamorous ways to die; tips for hosting your own big bang; what religion is right for your body type; and the most pressing issue facing women today: kale!!!

I appreciate the humour and applaud Amram’s wit. I also feel it should be noted that there is some very good science writing to be found (occasionally) in women’s magazines (e.g. Tracy Picha’s article ‘The Future of Our Body’ in an August 2009 issue  of Flare magazine [mentioned in my July 24, 2009 posting featuring human enhancement technologies’). As well, Andrew Maynard, physicist and then chief science advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, now NSF (US National Science Foundation) International Chair of Environmental Health Sciences and Director, University of Michigan Risk Science Center, once commented that one of the best descriptions of nanotechnology that he’d ever read was in an issue of Elle magazine.

Gender, science, science policy, and an update on Science: it’s (formerly, a girl) your thing

After describing the NDP (New Democrat Party) science policy launch/discussion as a bit of a ‘sausage fest’ in my Nov. 14, 2012 posting about being at the Canadian Science Policy Conference (part 2 of a 2-part series), I realized (very early this morning [Nov. 15, 2012]) that I could have described my own panel presentation in those terms since the majority of the response (if memory serves, 100% or thereabouts) was from the male members of the audience.

My interest is not a discussion about the rights or wrongs of this state of affairs but to find new ways to encourage engagement/discussion with everyone. Thrillingly and also this morning, I found a notice of a Nov. 14, 2012 blog posting by Curt Rice titled, “Gendered Innovations: Making research better” which touches on the topic (how do we better integrate gender into the discussion) and applies the thinking to research,

Could your research be better if you thought more about gender? I’m not asking if you could say more about gender if you thought about gender; that much is obvious. No, I’m asking if the quality of your research results more broadly could be improved if issues of gender informed the methods you use and the questions you ask. [emphasis mine]

At the University of Tromsø, we suspect that gendered perspectives could make your research better, and so we’re kicking off a new project to explore these issues and to better communicate them to our students. We’re doing this to improve the quality of our science — anything that might have that effect, after all, deserves careful exploration.

We’re also doing it because our primary funding agencies will reward grants that include gendered perspectives, regardless of the field of the grant. This is true of the Research Council of Norway and it’s true of the EU’s upcoming Horizon 2020 program [major European Union-funded science programming]. Arvid Hallén, the Director of our Research Council, tells us how important this has become.

A gendered perspective is a criterium for all applications being evaluated by the Research Council of Norway.

Our project draws inspiration from an international enterprise drawing the connection between overall research quality and the presence of gender-related questions and methods. [emphasis mine]

Rice is referring to Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment based at Stanford University in California. Here’s more from the What is Gendered Innovations? page,

Gendered Innovations employ sex and gender analysis as a resource to create new knowledge and technology.

This website has six interactive main portals:

1. Methods of sex and gender analysis for research and engineering
2. Case studies illustrate how sex and gender analysis leads to innovation
3. Terms address key concepts used throughout the site
4. Checklists for researchers, engineers, and evaluators
5. Policy provides recommendations in addition to links to key national and international policies that support Gendered Innovations
6. Institutional Transformation summarizes current literature on: 1) increasing the numbers of women in science, health & medicine, and engineering; 2) removing subtle gender bias from research institutions; and 3) solutions and best practices.

I’m going to check this Gendered Innovations website for any information that can help  me develop sessions that encourage more participation from women and who knows? Maybe next year we can have a session at the Canadian Science Policy Conference where we discuss some of this thinking about gender issues, i.e., using information about gender bias and information about how it functions in real life situations for designing new research and policies.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned Curt Rice. He featured in a July 6, 2012 posting about the European Union campaign to encourage more girls to take an interest in science careers. The video produced by the project’s marketing communications team caused a sensation and a huge amount of criticism,

I find the June 29, 2012 posting by Curt Rice at the Guardian Science blogs gives insight into some of the current response (condemnation and support from an unexpected source) to and the prior planning that went into the campaign,

Advertising professors everywhere must be thanking the European Commission for their new campaign, Science: it’s a girl thing! This campaign – designed to convince high school girls to pursue careers in science – had such a badly bungled launch that it’s sure to become the topic of lectures and exam questions for communications students throughout Europe and beyond.

The problem lies in the “teaser” video, which went viral last week for all the wrong reasons. It was put up on the campaign website, disliked, criticised, mocked and then pulled down faster than the gaga male scientist in the video could open his zipper.

As a consequence, Rice created a contest for a new video and invited anyone to submit. Since July 2012, the European Science Foundation took on the project which offers three money prizes and the opportunity to have your video seen at the 2nd European Gender Summit, Nov. 29-30, 2012. Science: it’s a girl thing! has been renamed to Science: it’s your thing!  Here’s more from the Oct. 18, 2012 European Science Foundation news release,

This contest, co-organized by the European Science Foundation and Curt Rice (check his excellent blog: curt-rice.com) offers you the chance to highlight the diverse career options that science offers to young women everywhere.

This contest follows a campaign recently launched by the launched European Commission to encourage more young women to choose science in their future careers. With several countries taking part, the cornerstone of the campaign is a fresh and lively webpage, called Science: It’s a girl thing!

A video of the same name was made to raise awareness of the campaign. And indeed it did! The video was successful in creating discussion and engagement, triggering an animated debate on how to promote science to young women – a crucial element in bringing the campaign to life. However, feedback about the contents of the film was mixed so the Commission decided to remove it.

Since the original video is no longer being used but the excellent campaign remains, we have devised a contest to make a new video for it. By entering the competition you can help the European Commission better understand how the issue should be communicated and you get a chance to win €1500 if your video is selected as one of the 3 winning videos.

The contest is being promoted by a number of science bloggers and tweeters. And Nobel Prize winner Brian Schmidt (Physics, 2011) has made a donation for the cash prize!

The winning videos will be shown at the European Gender Summit Networking Event 2012, November 29 at the Science14 in Brussels.

Here’s more about the contest which appears to be open to anyone from anywhere in the world, from the Contest page,

Contest Instructions
  1. Visit the Science, It’s a Girl Thing website.
  2. Create a one minute (or less) video (in english) designed to create awareness for the initiative and to encourage young women to consider scientific careers.
  3. Upload your video to YouTube or Facebook.
  4. Follow the instructions on this site to submit your video.
  5. Tweet to @gendersummit with a link to your video using the hashtag #ScienceItsYourThing. We will promote your videos on this site and on Twitter.
  6. Encourage people to vote for your video from 19 November 2012, 18:01 Central European Time to 28 November 2012, 12:00 Central European Time .
  7. The video with the most votes on 28 November at 12 noon Central European Time, will be one of the winners.
  8. The other two winning videos will be determined by a panel of judges from the European Science Community & Industry.
  9. All three winning videos will receive a cash prize of 1500 euros and will be screened at the European Gender Summit networking event 2012, November 29 at the Science14 in Brussels..

Still have questions? Email us at [email protected]

The final deadline for the contest is Nov. 19, 2012 at 6 pm CET. Good luck!

‘Girly’ girls aren’t motivated to study science by ‘girly’ scientists

Liz Else in a June 22, 2012 article for New Scientist discusses, in light of the recent  ‘Science: It’s a Girl Thing’ campaign video/debacle (mentioned in my July 6, 2012 posting), some recent research which suggests that ‘girly’ or ‘feminine’ scientist role models are demotivating (Note: I have removed links),

But the team really should have done some background before launching the teaser video for the initiative (above). If they had, they would have probably come across some recent research by University of Michigan psychologists Diana Betz and Denise Sekaquaptewa that would have stopped them dead in their tracks.

Betz and Sekaquaptewa recruited 142 girls aged 11 to 13 and showed them mocked-up magazine articles about three female university students who were either described as doing well in science, engineering, technology or mathematics (STEM), or as rising stars in unspecified fields. The three also either displayed overtly feminine characteristics or gender-neutral traits.

Oddly, the researchers found that girls who read about the feminine science students decreased their self-rated interest in maths ability and short-term expectations of success. [emphasis mine]

Else’s article describes other related outcomes and provides a link to the research article (which is behind a paywall).

This research contrasts with the response from the Australian teen science bloggers (in my July 6, 2012 posting) who were very enthusiastic about this more girly approach.

In conjunction with the material in my previous posting on this topic,  it seems this whole incident has sparked an extraordinary conversation taking place internationally and across various social media. For those on Twitter, I recommend the #ScienceGirlThing discussion. Locally (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), I believe the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST) is considering an event focused on the ‘Science: It’s a Girl Thing’. I’ll let you know more as this evolves.

Thanks to @CarlsonEngineer for the link to article by Else.

Science is a girl thing, eh?

I think it’s the sheer cheesiness of the video and ‘branding’ that bothers me most. Science: It’s a Girl Thing! is the European Commission’s brave new attempt to make science appealing to girls. Unfortunately it looks like a campaign for cosmetics. If you go to the website, you’ll find the lettering for the brand is pink (lipstick) while the letter ‘i’ in Science is represented by a lipstick which looks like a different shade than the one used for the lettering. Very cheesy branding but apparently it’s the video that has caused a bit of an uproar.  Here it is for your delectation,

I find the June 29, 2012 posting by Curt Rice at the Guardian Science blogs gives insight into some of the current response (condemnation and support from an unexpected source) to and the prior planning that went into the campaign,

Advertising professors everywhere must be thanking the European Commission for their new campaign, Science: it’s a girl thing! This campaign – designed to convince high school girls to pursue careers in science – had such a badly bungled launch that it’s sure to become the topic of lectures and exam questions for communications students throughout Europe and beyond.

The problem lies in the “teaser” video, which went viral last week for all the wrong reasons. It was put up on the campaign website, disliked, criticised, mocked and then pulled down faster than the gaga male scientist in the video could open his zipper.

The video was so shocking that the EC had to deny that it was an attempt at irony.

I was a member of the “gender expert group” that provided recommendations to the commission for this campaign. We met during the spring of 2011, articulated ideas about target groups and relevant evidence-based perspectives. We submitted a report and then heard nothing more from the commission until receiving an invitation to the kick-off a few weeks ago.

When that invitation came, it worried me. The logo for the campaign was written in lipstick – pink lipstick. “What will that convey?” I wondered.

My uncertainty about how the campaign would be received was vanquished the moment I saw the teaser video. Not only was it completely devoid of any trace of our group’s recommendations – as we noted in a recently released joint statement – but its sex roles were stereotypical clichés.

Here’s what I found particularly intriguing,

I started airing my concerns on Twitter. The debate was lively and engaged; it was nuanced. Twin sisters in Australia were provoked to write to me and elaborate on their views. Imogen and Freya Wadlow are 17 years old and they run two science websites, one for younger kids and one for teens.

How did two teenagers with award-winning websites view the infamous video? They thought it was a stereotype-busting effort! That’s right. Imogen and Freya told me that they receive loads of emails from girls who love science but hate being labeled geeks. Why, they ask, can’t scientists wear make-up, killer heels and be seen laughing?

I do like Rice’s suggestion for a proactive response to this video,

Maybe crowdsourcing the creation of a teaser – based on the campaign’s website – would be the best way to find out what could tempt teenage girls to study science.

In fact, I think we should show the European Commission just how crowdsourcing the teaser could work. Let’s have a contest. Go to the campaign website and find your inspiration. Think about what could be a meaningful teaser video. And then make it!

Rice is the Pro Rector for Research and Development at the University of Tromsø (Norway). Rice gives the contest rules here,

The #ScienceGirlThing contest

The European Commission has just launched a campaign — Science: It’s a girl thing! — that aims to increase participation of women in science. However, one part of the launch was a fiasco. Join our contest and show the European Commission that YOU can do better!

To get attention for the campaign, the Commission used a “teaser” video:

That video was extremely controversial and it was quickly abandoned. Twitter exploded with discussion marked with the hashtag #sciencegirlthing.

Let’s show the Commission what kind of talent is out there. Let’s show them how crowdsourcing can create something brilliant.

The contest below is for you!

The winning video will be shown at the European Gender Summit 2012, November 29-30 at the European Parliament in Brussels. (UPDATE: I’m working on a securing a cash prize for the contest as well. Watch this space for news about this in the coming few days.)

Create a video for Europe

Create your own video teaser and have it shown at the European Gender Summit 2012 and promoted on this site.

Here’s how it works:

1. Visit the Science, It’s a Girl Thing website.

2. Create a one minute (or less) video designed to drive traffic to the site and create awareness for the project.

3. Upload your video to YouTube and include the hashtag #sciencegirlthing in the description, and tweet to @CurtRice with a link to your video. I’ll promote your videos on my blog and on Twitter.

4. Encourage people to “like” your video on YouTube. The one with the most likes on Tuesday, November 6, at 12 noon Central European Time will be shown at the conference.

5. Sign up for our newsletter below [on Rice's blog] and receive updates on who is winning with links to all of the videos.

The teen (and twin sister) Australian science bloggers mentioned in  Rice’s posting on the Guardian dropped by on June 30,2012 to leave a comment,

planetpatrol

30 June 2012 12:47AM

We’re Immie & Freya (mentioned in Curt’s article). We LOVE Reena’s survey (http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/16896759); shows that our responses were pretty typical of teen girls. We are a bit older than the girls surveyed, so we understand that in a few years when we’re working scientists, we will be more focussed on being seen as professional and serious scientists. But right now, we need to smash the stereotypes that stop girls getting interested in science in the first place. I don’t think those making negative comments about the video remember just how alienating being interested in science can be, especially for girls. It shouldn’t just be for the quiet geeks, science should be for ALL girls and like it or not, us teens identify more with the girls depicted in the video than with white coats and glum faces (see: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/06/opinion-scientist-stereotype/). We love that at least the EU is making an effort and yes, we’d love to re-do the video; get rid of all that pouting and the dude perving at the girls, get some REAL scientists in there, because we’ve met some amazing cool science chics who DO wear killer heels, lipstick and are happy to hit the moshpit and it’s them who’ve inspired us to join the science ranks. All we want as young girls is to feel ‘normal’, not pasted into a stereotype of dull, boring and handles test tubes well! This video is not an answer, but it’s a start!!!!

I had tripped across Rice’s posting last week but it was David Bruggeman’s July 4, 2012 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog that moved me to write about my thoughts on the matter (which I haven’t quite done yet but I will),

Those still smarting from the horribly inept European Commission ad to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for girls should take some solace in the release yesterday of Science Fair, an album from Spare the Rock Records I noticed via Twitter last month.  Net proceeds will go to the science education programs at Girls Inc.

Here’s more from the About Girls Inc. webpage (Note: I have removed some links),

Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through life-changing programs and experiences that help girls navigate gender, economic, and social barriers. Research-based curricula, delivered by trained, mentoring professionals in a positive all-girl environment equip girls to achieve academically; lead healthy and physically active lives; manage money; navigate media messages; and discover an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. The network of local Girls Inc. nonprofit organizations serves 125,000 girls ages 6 – 18 annually across the United States and Canada.


Our History The Girls Inc movement started in New England during the Industrial Revolution as a response to the needs of a new working class: young women who had migrated from rural communities in search of newly available job opportunities in textile mills and factories.

Programs Girls Inc develops research-based informal education programs that encourage girls to take risks and master physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. Major programs address math and science education, pregnancy and drug abuse prevention, media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention, and sports participation.

I always find the Board of Directors list to be very informative, you may want to take a look (the first name on this list is Michelle Obama, First Lady of the US).

I digress; the video of ‘I am a scientist’ by Mates of State for the Science Fair album (available here and mentioned in the earlier excerpt from  David Bruggeman’s posting) provides a contrast to the Science: It’s a Girl Thing video but is fraught with its own stereotype,

Nerd  (corrected July 6, 2012 at 16:30 PST) Geeky girl with glasses (intelligent girls almost always wear glasses in videos, movies, & tv series) gets laughed at for her ‘science’—that’s a very familiar trope. In fact, these two videos represent the dominant (almost the only) stories ‘you’re sexy and can’t hold onto your molecules (i.e., not very good at science/business/etc.)’ or ‘you’re a nerd and people will will laugh at you when you try to be serious’ about girls/women/females. I don’t think the stories are the problem it’s just that they’re pretty much the only stories that get represented. Then, we all start arguing as if it’s an either/or situation.

I should mention here Darlene Cavalier and the Science Cheerleader website where she has been tackling the issue of being overtly girly and practicing science for years. You can check out my Sept. 2, 2010 posting (scroll down 3/4 of the way)  or you can look at this from her June 19, 2012 posting about twins (in honour of the Australian bloggers, Imogen and Freya Wadlow), scientists, and cheerleaders, Kim and Kelly,

Kim and Kelly, former Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders, science professionals, and twins (from the Science Cheerleader website)

So what got you two into science?
Kim: 
My science related career evolved over time. My initial work was on the business side with ExxonMobil. Later I managed operations in a facility which included safety, health, and environmental compliance and I really enjoyed the learning curve of the vast environmental regulation arena. This experience allowed me to eventually move into a position as an Environmental Advisor, in which I support the company’s Lubricant Blend Oil Plants in their environmental sustainability initiatives and environmental compliance.
Kelly: After teaching 3rd grade for nine years, a position opened up in my school building for a 6th grade science teacher. I jumped at the chance to challenge myself to teach and become an expert in one subject area instead of teaching all subject areas. I took many classes, training, and in-service workshops in preparation for teaching science.

Personally, I want to see more stories and variations and I’m glad to see Darlene has continued with her quiet campaign to challenge stereotypes about women in science.

Good luck to Curt Rice and I look forward to seeing the entries to his contest.

One last thing about David Bruggeman’s July 4, 2012 posting, he has some details and a video clip about a geometry movie Sphereland, sequel to a 2007 movie, Flatland. Both movies are based on books of the same title.