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Alex phillips british society in a globalising world presentation gender

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Alex phillips british society in a globalising world presentation gender

  1. 1. Bimbo or boffin? Women in science: an analysis of media representations and how female scientists negotiate cultural contradictions Mwenya Chimba and Jenny Kitzinger A presentation by Alex Phillips
  2. 2. Background • Gendered representations of scientists in UK media: Asymmetrical portrayal of Males & Females working in Science, Engineering &Technology (SET) • Emphasis onWomen'sAppearance and Exceptional Status • Women used to ‘sex up’ popularity • Focus on 86 scientists how women experience media and contradictions around their role • Highlights challenges and promote positive image
  3. 3. Introduction • Girls and women are under-represented in science, engineering and technology (SET).They are less likely than boys/men to opt to study SET at school and university (Rees, 2001;Roberts, 2002) • Women make up 39.5% of “science professionals,” 14.6% of “ICT professionals” and only 5.4% of “engineering professionals” (UKRC, 2008). • The media help to define people’s sense of taken-for-granted normality (Eldridge et al., 1997) • Females marginalised • Women require ‘masculine’ attributes • Focus on marriage and motherhood
  4. 4. Method • Analysis of press coverage and interviews with scientists on media • Pursued other stakeholders • 12 National Newspaper analysis of SET coverage • 7903 articles on SET with 51 profiles on leading scientists • Identified 2 high profile female UK scientists • 86 female scientists participated via questionnaires and interviews • Published reports allowing for debate from stakeholders
  5. 5. Findings from analysis of newspaper profiles • Only 16% female scientists profiled in UK, with even fewer at higher positions • Half ofWomen profiles referred to appearance compared to 21% Male • “She is impressive, an immaculately groomed woman of 70, who could easily pass for 15 years younger” (Parry,TheTimes, 18 February 2006) • Such descriptions may be trying to break down stereotypes, but draw attention away from their profession • ‘MediaWhore’ Risky trying to promote profession, rather seen as self promotion • Sexualised descriptions
  6. 6. A view from Scientists in the public eye • Some happy with coverage whereas others concerned • Concerns: • Focus on being female- : “female scientist says x, y and z … [but] why should the fact that I am a female make any difference whatsoever?” • Personal life- a journalist enquired whether she had a boyfriend • Disproportionate focus on sexuality and femininity- sexualized her interaction with the school pupils with whom she had worked (getting teenagers “all steamed up over science”)
  7. 7. The significance of appearance for women at work • Historically stereotyped as unattractive but now often framed as ultra- feminine • Mixed feelings about appearance: • “terribly business-like almost as if to succeed you have to play by the men’s rules.” • The media often frame women scientists as ultra-feminine • Appearance: ultra elegant, masculine, avoid bright colours & where fluorescent jacket to blend in
  8. 8. Conclusion • Male Scientists the norm whilst women exceptional • Scarcity ofWomen in the Media • Women welcome on public stage in certain capacities • Focus often on appearance • CertainTypes ofWomen receive attention, often implying contradictions between ‘airheads’ and ‘eggheads ‘,‘boffins’ and ‘bimbos’
  9. 9. Thanks for listening

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