Female scientists and engineers in the Queen Vic

Anne-Marie Imafidon, Head Stemette

Last night, I switched on the television and found a wealth of science content. I could watch Professor Brian Cox presenting Forces of Nature, Maggie Aderin Pocock on The Sky at Night, or my own guilty pleasure, Embarrassing Bodies.

We see scientists on the TV as experts, doling out advice or wisdom. But when was the last time you tuned in for Eastenders or Coronation Street and heard:

“Where’s Dot?”

“Oh, she’s just taking air quality measurements in the square for her PhD thesis, she’ll meet us at the Queen Vic”.

I certainly can’t remember the last time I watched a soap opera or drama and saw a character that was a scientist or engineer. But according to the Science Council, in 2011 there were 1.2 million people working as scientists in the UK. That’s almost 1 in 50 people. Yet, you rarely see scientists on TV living their normal lives.

To help break the stereotypes that scientists are brainy, white, middle aged men who live in labs, we need different role models. 61.5% of young people do not have a person in a science-related-job among their family. So we need to make sure they can get to know scientists in other ways. And I’m not talking about scientists like in ‘The Big Bang Theory’ – socially awkward, obsessive brainiacs. I’m talking about rounded characters, with the same hobbies, passions and troubles as everyone else, and just happen to work in science.

So to help make science a bigger part of culture, I’d call on the soap opera writers to add in a female scientist or engineer.

Anne-Marie is Head Stemette and co-founder of Stemettes – an award-winning social enterprise inspiring the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics roles via a series of events and opportunities.

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