Sexy image turns girls off

15th September 2006 at 01:00
She is young, beautiful and she removes her glasses at the first opportunity. This is the modern female scientist, as imagined by TV executives and appearing in countless television shows and films.

And she is putting young girls off studying physics, according to research by the Open University, writes Madeleine Brettingham.

The "Invisible Witnesses" project, lead by academics at the Centre for Education and Education Technology, criticises television programmers for using female presenters as light relief. And for continuing to peddle unrealistic portrayals of women in science, such as the woman pictured on the left inspecting a slide who was used to promote a research and development project for a bio tech firm.

Researchers said of the TV portrayals: "They are often young and glamorous, unrealistically young for the positions viewers are asked to believe they occupy."

They warn that the stereotyping of scientists with attractive women could affect girls' educational choices.

Just 20 per cent of A-level physics students are female, and only 75 per cent of women with science and technology degrees go on to pursue science as a career.

The number of A-level candidates taking physics as a whole has halved since the early 1980s, say researchers.

"Invisible witness? How science and scientists are represented on UK television" Open university

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