Young women’s relationship to media representations of girls and women in STEM
Bemrose, Madeline Rebecca
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Subjectgender parity; media platforms; self-efficacy; STEM stereotypes; television role models; women in science
A body of research has examined some of the reasons why there are fewer women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related careers than men. Research shows that young boys and girls start off having similar positive feelings towards science fields but this declines steadily after the age of 10, with the cause of this decline not fully understood. The volume or way in which girls and women in the media are portrayed may be playing a role in the decline in interest in STEM after the age of 10. Research has shown that being able to see oneself represented in our potential role models can help us view their achievements as attainable, and desirable. Therefore, by looking at how young girls are interacting with girls and women in STEM in the media it can expand our understanding of how the media might be influencing a young girl’s desire to seek out careers in STEM. This study was conducted with girls aged 10 to 17, as well as professionals in STEM fields under 35, and consisted of both questionnaires and interviews. The questionnaires and interviews sought to expand our understanding on the relationship young women have with STEM, specifically on how they identify with the media representations of girls and/or women in STEM. While this is a complex issue, the findings suggest that that an interest in a specific topic or subject prior to exposure to a potential role model in that field could help form a connection between a girl and a female STEM role model and that identification is strongest when the character is portrayed on television versus other media platforms.
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