Want your daughter to consider a science, math, or engineering career? Avoid the "girly science" stuff such as Danica McKellar's Girls get Curves and Computer Engineer Barbie.

The Trouble with Barbie Science

Recent psychological research suggests that girlifying science may not be the best way to get girls thinking about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (also called “STEM”). And, thankfully, the research also offers specific suggestions for what might work better.

The feminine STEM role models actually made girls feel the least interested in math, and the least confident. Plus, the girls who already didn’t like math or science (the prime targets for recruitment campaigns) felt least likely to ever take math classes after seeing those role models.  In our follow-up study, math-disinterested girls saw the feminine STEM role models’ success as furthest out of reach. Perhaps contrary to popular intuition, adding the “girly” factor to otherwise everyday women succeeding in male-dominated fields made those women less motivating, not more. When science and femininity seem so antithetical, the idea of being both a science whiz and a girly girl could seem pretty daunting. When a role model’s success seems impossible to achieve, people may feel less motivated to try. [emphasis mine]

Eighth-grade girls changed their negative opinions of scientists after getting to know female mentors who had impressive credentials as well as real lives away from the lab.  Rather than broadcasting videos of women who look relatable to young girls, we should highlight women who are relatable to girls. Ideally, that means women with accomplishments, passions, and concerns shared by a variety of girls—not just girly ones. [emphasis mine]

Tags: Barbie dolls, engineering, math, motivating girls, science, technology

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Replies to This Discussion

How cool!

I want that Barbie!

I bought the Barbie for President 2012 doll.

I have others too - like the Wonder Woman Barbie doll.

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