The 5 most cringe-worthy ways to encourage women into science

Here is a list that is one of those “you have to laugh or you’ll cry” type of things. A countdown of five ways encouraging (or discouraging as the case may be) women into science.

5. Girl’s science toys

First of all the question has to be asked whether there was really a gap in the market for girl’s science tools. What’s was wrong with the chemistry sets, telescopes and potato clocks that were traditionally earmarked for boys. A simple solution would be to put all toys in a unisex section. But clearly girls will only get into science if lip gloss is involved!


But for anyone still trying to navigate the treacherous world of toys and are unsure whether it is suitable for a boy or girl then this useful tool might help.



4. This Mic Mac Mall Advert 


This advert from a shopping mall in Nova Scotia did not last long. Another ad in the campaign states “social studies? Does posting my new boots on Facebook count?” Yes, because clearly all girls prefer shopping over getting an education! I’d like to know where the male equivalent of this ad was.

3. Princess Scientist

This seems like a concept with all the right intentions – a TV show to encourage girls into science called Dr Erika. But as soon Erika Ebbel Angle put her Miss Massachusetts tiara on, the message that girls need something more than interest to become scientists is conveyed. They need to be a princess as well.


Many may see this as harmless as long as girls are encouraged into science and she is a graduate of MIT after all. But research has shown that promoting the idea of brains and beauty may actually have the opposite effect. A study by the University of Michigan found that feminine role models decreased girls’ interest and ability in maths, as well as lowering their expectations of success. Geeky role models are just as bad apparently – so what are we to do! Hey I have an idea – maybe we should use a woman who is in the middle of these two extremes and represents the majority of female scientists today.

2. ‘Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer’…or not. 

Good for Barbie, she’s branching out to become a computer engineer. Oh wait…that’s not entirely true. The attempt by Mattel to “empower” women using its world famous doll, Barbie, in fact has the opposite effect. The book, published in 2010, was eventually pulled from sales after “surprisingly” people took offence at the fact that Barbie is only able to design a computer game and needs men to actually make it.


Barbie tries to send the men her designs but crashes her laptop in the process. But it’s ok because the men are here to help with the encouraging words “It will go faster if Brian and I help” and “step aside, Barbie. You’ve broken enough now”.  The creators of this book have clearly ignored the fact that it is actually a woman, Ada Lovelace, who is credited as the world’s first computer programmer.

1. ‘Science: it’s a girl thing’…aka lipstick, high heels and revealing clothing

This campaign from the European Commission really puts the icing on the cake of stupidity when it comes to bad ways of encouraging women into science. How could an organisation of this magnitude get this so very wrong? Ignoring all the experts who consulted on it is a good first step. Were they high maybe? Was it their attempt at a joke? Luckily they took it down as quickly as they jumped to the conclusion that lipstick is the only thing that will get women into science.

The one good thing about this advert is that it led to this parody.

Luckily it is not all bad, there are some organisations out there actually doing some good, such as WISE and Science Grrl. It is also encouraging that many of these examples were removed after such a backlash from the public, which in a way shows that progress is being made…by most at least.

Holly Edwards




Leave a Reply