Science 'girl thing' video sparks backlash

Sat, Jun 23, 2012, 01:00

A EUROPEAN Commission campaign designed to attract more women to a career in science has been met with a public backlash after launching with a promotional video featuring young women in stilettos and short skirts against a pink background and flashing images of lipstick, nail polish and other cosmetics.

The video – “Science: It’s a girl thing” – is part of the campaign launched yesterday in Brussels by Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn who spoke of the need to “overturn cliches and show women and girls (and boys too!) that science is not about old men in white coats”.

The video has gone viral on social networking sites as the science community displayed an overwhelmingly negative reaction. Writer and editor of Nature Helen Pearson referred to the video as “packed with painful patronising cliche”, while Bad Science’s Ben Goldacre asked if the “EU have funded a campaign to make women in science wear shorter skirts”.

Asked to comment on negative reactions to the video, Michael Jennings, official spokesman for media communication on behalf of the commissioner said: “It is intended to catch the attention of the target audience – 13- to 17-year- old girls.”

Mr Jennings said that focus groups informed the commission that the video had to “speak their language to get their attention” and that it was intended to be “fun, catchy” and strike a chord with young people. “I would encourage everyone to have a look at the wider campaign and the many videos already online of female researchers talking about their jobs and lives,” he said.