Oct 02, 2019

We Can Change The Way Society Sees Women in STEM

“Strong female role models are essential to breaking down barriers and educating the next generation of leaders about gender equality,” Davis said in a press release. “Girls need to see themselves on and off the screen as STEM professionals, and as I always say, ‘If they can see it, they can be it.’ This new series strives to empower young women and showcase the many ways they can impact the world through careers in STEM.”

Research by AAUW reveals that stereotypes and biases are a large part of why women aren't more involved in STEM careers. In their report, they note that stereotype threat arises in situations where "a negative stereotype is relevant to evaluating performance." For example, a female student who is taking a math test will experience a much higher cognitive and emotional burden (much more stress) because of the added pressure of the stereotype that women are not good at math. And notably, a reference to this stereotype or a reminder of it, even one that is as subtle as taking the test in a room that consists mostly of men, can adversely affect her test performance. Remarkably, when the burden is removed, the performance has been shown to improve. As AAUW concludes, "stereotype threat is one compelling explanation for why women remain underrepresented in STEM fields." By removing these subtle stereotypes, through efforts like the Unstoppable series, we increase the likeliness that women will pursue STEM careers.

Only one in four American STEM professionals are women. Portrayals of STEM professions in media contribute to this gap in a number of ways. At this juncture, it is clear that representation matters. Which is why the Geena Davis Institute is helping bring more women in STEM to the screen.

A new series that is executive produced by Geena Davis and actor Miranda Cosgrove, who also serves as the host, showcase women who are on the cutting edge of science and innovation – zoologists, engineers, astronauts, codebreakers, oceanographers, and more. It's called Mission Unstoppable. You can follow along here, or on your local CBS station.

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