Smart girls at the party

By Phil Plait | July 21, 2010 12:00 pm

I’ve written many times about the gender disparity in science. It’s important to support girls who are interested in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I just found a new site that I think helps: Smart Girls at the Party. It’s done by SNL alumna Amy Poehler, who cracks me up, and two other women. They make videos where they interview young women interested in STEM, and the videos are, well… see for yourself.

Find more videos like this on Smart Girls at the Party

This video made me laugh; it’s supportive and funny, snarky and warm. I think a lot of young girls would really like it… though caveat emptor, I am not nor ever have been a young girl. I welcome comments from women and girls on this. What do you think?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Science

Comments (52)


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  2. MoonShark

    You mean UCB alumna Amy Poehler ūüėČ

    Though yeah, she probably got more exposure on SNL, and deservedly so, but UCB was more bizarre and holds a warmer spot in my heart. Either way though, she’s awesome.

  3. Cindy


    Some of it was funny, but some of it rubbed me the wrong way like when one of them was petting the robot. Also the baby panda and baby monkey question. It’s was if Amy Poehler felt like she had to make it girly enough. I would have loved to have seen more on the robot.

    What does little BA think?

  4. Dennis

    Cindy – isn’t that the point? – That girls can still be girly-girls AND be brainy and into science and tech and stuff?

    Of course, they’re free to be tom-boys, and act and dress like boys if that’s what they’re into, but I think it’s also an important message that you can be a “typical” girl – wear frilly pink things, think baby animals are cute and cuddly, AND be brainy and geeky – if that’s what you’re into…
    The message is “be yourself” and if that means you like Barbie dolls AND science, so be it.

    By the way, I (as a grown man) also happen to think baby animals are cute and cuddly (I vote with Amy on baby monkeys), but I draw the line at wearing pink frilly things and playing with Barbie dolls.

  5. Dennis:

    The message is ‚Äúbe yourself‚ÄĚ and if that means you like Barbie dolls AND science, so be it.

    That reminds me of my HS chemistry teacher. He’d demonstrate how some things “spontaneously combust” in air, by drenching a Barbie doll in alcohol, and sprinkling it with (IIRC) phosphorous. We called it “Barbe flambe”.

    (Now, to be fair, he also did “GI Joe flambe”.)

  6. I will have to show this to my little scientist and see what she thinks.

  7. Chiral

    I have to admit, the whole gender stereotype thing makes me gag a bit. I’ve only worked a few places, but so far through two EE degrees and three jobs it really seems like there are only two acceptable ways to be a girl in engineering. You can either try to be more stereotypically masculine, which has mixed results, or you can be a girly-girl. The girly-girl approach seems to be better socially, but it is almost impossible to get people to listen to your ideas and suggestions that way. And if you’re like me and naturally fall somewhere between what society considers masculine and feminine, you are not accepted at all.

    I’m sure there are companies where this isn’t the case but, while I’m able to get myself heard in meetings, I get really anxious about having to be what I consider to be loud and abrasive for that to happen. I’m excluded from social stuff 95% of the time. I’m not sure what the real motivation is there, maybe I’m just boring, but I joke that it’s because I don’t wear skirts or have a penis and no one knows which catagory to put me into.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to abandoning my engineering career as soon as I am able to financially.

  8. Speaking as a young lady who now does astrophysics but used to build robots that look similar to the ones in the video…

    Meh, wouldn’t have struck me very positively at a younger age honestly. Partly because I would’ve found it cheesy, but mainly because I went to an all-girls school and was always annoyed at “girl power” messages when the science was just fine on its own in being fun.

  9. Chris

    Wow. Definitely not my kind of humor.
    Is there an adequate english translation for “fremdsch√§men”, yet?

  10. Eric W.

    I remember when taking an astronomy class and the lab portion of the course was taught by a TA who was working on her master’s (the nature of binary stars). Aside from being pretty cute, just the fact that there was a common interest there and she actually taught me some things, I was pretty smitten. I put a ton of extra effort into the lab exercises and side projects. :]

  11. JC

    Follow the link in my name for an awesome website by a smart girl. Exogeology rocks! :)

  12. Drivethruscientist

    I hope this helps get more women involved … it gets awfully boring talking to dudes all the time :(

  13. Michael Swanson

    “…though caveat emptor, I am not nor ever have been a young girl.”

    There’s always the future.

  14. Josie

    I have not watched the videos as I am at work (researching stem cell therapies for diabetes)

    I am a scientist who happens to be a woman. In general I stay away from this sort of thing, just like I stay away from ‘women’s tech sessions’ for my motorsport hobby –I don’t see the point in them.

    To me, I am interested in something so I do it. Excluding input from an entire group (men) seems silly, isolationist elitist and counterproductive. I certainly did not need ‘grrrrrrl specific encouragement’ to get into ANY of my male dominated hobbies –I just needed some role models, men and women, who were not hung up on gender labels.

    Early on I did a lot of field work, difficult physically intensive manual work. I did experience sexual discrimination in various forms ranging from condescension to exclusion to a full on assault. Never did I ask for special treatment or consideration as a woman –as a person I would protest what I thought was incorrect treatment, but not as a woman. It never made any sense to do so.

    I often wonder if ladies like Marie Curie would like this kind of stuff…or if they would be too busy doing what they love, science, to be bothered with a sidetrack interest. I believe in living by example, the example that you can do whatever you like with your professional life and your sex need not interfere in any meaningful way.

  15. Let me share some of my thoughts. I find the video contradictory.

    She starts by saying “…extraordinary individuals who are changing the world by being themselves…”

    That should be the point “be yourself”. I don’t think girls don’t go into sciences because they are not smart. They don’t because they were told not to, even if they could.

    Now about changing the WORLD… this is a problem in the US so this leap from US to world… anyway.

    But most of the video is misguided from my point of view. From the get go, it is called SMART girls… why smart? Girls who are not smart should not go into sciences? not everyone gets a Nobel price, and like in any other area, there are brilliant scientists and there are people who may be mediocre at what they do but it is still science and they still enjoy it.

    To reinforce this “smart” quality the girls is introduced as “inventor, artists, scientists, archer….” by now most regular people have decided this is not for them !! Most people can handle only one or two of those activities.

    The conversation on the table with the dark background is just plain boring ! This is meant to encourage kids?!

    So then we go to the interview with the robot. But all the buildup makes this part fall short of all the expectations… I was expecting incredible things from an inventor, artists, scientists, archer…. But this is just a kid who built a lego robot…. Wait, wasn’t that the idea? That this is just a kid doing kid stuff ?! It got lost in the hype.

    She insists that Rachel likes different things, why she asks. Rachel’s answers: “They are more fun to do than the NORMAL stuff”. But the point should be that science IS normal stuff. That some kids may like football others science and it is just fine.

    It is not that science is BETTER, and definitely not abnormal o strange. It is just another option, just like other things to do.

    The more I watch the video the more I get the sense that Amy constantly puts the kid in the place of an adult. Asks her to evaluate their work, to criticize he peers. Doesn’t treat her like a kid, reinforcing the idea that a kid who likes science is not a kid and hence is not having fun. This does not help.

    Just my 2 cents.

  16. I wanted to reiterate the point made in comment #4 above: “girly-girl” and “kick-ass, super-smart scientist/mathematician/engineer/etc.” aren’t mutually exclusive. I know some girly-girl scientists that are fantastic at what they do, so they’re certainly out there.

    It seems like there are a range of personalities showcased in the video — all keen on STEM. That sends a good message: that kids probably don’t need to worry about abandoning their entire persona if they want to do something STEM-related, even the girly-girls ūüėČ

  17. Adam_Y

    “So then we go to the interview with the robot. But all the buildup makes this part fall short of all the expectations‚Ķ I was expecting incredible things from an inventor, artists, scientists, archer‚Ķ. But this is just a kid who built a lego robot‚Ķ. Wait, wasn‚Äôt that the idea? That this is just a kid doing kid stuff ?! It got lost in the hype.”

    If you think that is easy then you are an idiot. It isn’t easy to build something that goes foward.

    “I often wonder if ladies like Marie Curie would like this kind of stuff‚Ķor if they would be too busy doing what they love, science, to be bothered with a sidetrack interest. I believe in living by example, the example that you can do whatever you like with your professional life and your sex need not interfere in any meaningful way.”

    Uhhhhh….. Building a robot is science….

  18. Marcus

    “It isn‚Äôt easy to build something that goes foward”

    Actually, I was wondering how the robot decided WHERE TO STOP. People put sensors on these things, and a robot that knew to go until it was 2 feet from the object in front of it and then stop would be cool (and would make sense for a drink delivery robot… nice trick for a bartending robot, for example. Not that 12 year olds tend bars. I don’t drink alcohol either. But, I’m just sayin’…).

    But, unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough robotics detail for robot geeks.

    But this was perhaps not aimed at people who are already robot geeks, but rather people who maybe should consider playing with robots because they might enjoy it… I’d still think that more robot would have helped the latter part too.

  19. Teshi

    I don’t think this is good.

    1. It doesn’t seem to know what age group it’s for. Is it for 12 year olds? The complexity of Amy Poehler’s questions seem to suggest that it is for older girls– there is no formal or visual explanation of either the robot or the word proboscis. However, the music, the opening, and the cartoonish reactions of the actors suggest it is for 6 year olds.

    2. So little time was actually spent on the Robot itself. Literally five seconds. What does it do? What does it actually look like? They do not show a close up. They demonstrate fear towards it, and then cutesy love. Then they make animals, sing a song, laugh about a silly word and rate the cuteness of animals. Hurray!

    I volunteered this year with a marvellous outfit called Scientists in School which runs in various Ontario cities bringing mainly female scientists into schools to give science workshops to Kindergarten to Grade 8 classrooms. They take special care in ensuring that the science is handled seriously but in a fun, age appropriate way. At the beginning of every workshop, the scientist will ask the kids what they think a scientist looks like.
    This is EXACTLY the stereotype they are trying to dispel. I’ve seen scientists explain to kindergarten classrooms the purpose of lab coats and goggles and when they are appropriate.

    Compared to something like Scientists in School, this program is dreadful. It is relatively dull, does not actually get into the meat of what the child has done and treats it like a sweet curiousity. I found the opposite to what Gaston (#12) found: the girl, and her creation, was infantalized by the adults. The girl’s comment about how they did building animals (“I thought you did really well” was the comment and adult might make to children– a strange role reversal.

    It’s not about being a girly girl here. It’s about engaging with science and not engaging with science. The girly girl attitude would be fine if, for at least half of the show, there was attention on how the robot moves, how it was built, what it does. This show does not engage with science and I think rather insults the guest.

    I think this is coming from a group of women who lack educational experience or (apparently) scientific experience, because I honestly think it does nothing for women in science.

  20. “If you think that is easy then you are an idiot.”

    Adam, I am not and you didn’t understand me.

    I thought the robot was great (though like some have pointed out I saw precious little of it) and I thought the girl was great too.

    I was talking about the way the video plays out. Instead giving the robot all the time it deserves and letting viewers get excited about what they see, they talk about what makes her so different and better and then only 15 seconds of long shots of the robot.

    No girl will feel specially motivated to go into the sciences after seeing that, I think.

  21. HangInThere

    I also cannot watch, being at work. Howver, my wife is both a girly girl and a Rocket Scientist. (AND a hang glider pilot!) Her second choice of career was fasion designer.

    For what it is worth, from the perspective of a non-woman, it seems to me that role models are key.

    And something else not mentioned above, but necessary: A more widespread acceptance of smart women as good mates. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard mothers tell their daughters not to show the boys that they are smarter, or they’ll never get a husband. Not only is this counter productive, it isn’t even true. Many of us LIKE smart women. Some of my friends wouldn’t even date a womon of average or below intelligence. So, hang in there, smart ladies! We love you.

  22. BigBob

    “wear frilly pink things, think baby animals are cute and cuddly, AND be brainy and geeky”

    I immediately thought ‘Jerry Coyne’.


  23. Josie

    “Uhhhhh‚Ķ.. Building a robot is science‚Ķ.”

    Did you quote the wrong thing Adam_Y? I never said building a robot is not science (although I believe it falls more in the engineering category after the basic premise is worked out)

    maybe you misunderstood ‘this stuff’…I was referring to a special focused effort on developing interest in science for girls instead of just pursuing a scientific interest and leading by example to create interest in science for *people* regardless of sex.

  24. Brawlificent

    I think the Weekend Update on SNL summed it up best (and I paraphrase), “We know women’s lib has come far when the entire space station is staffed by females (for the first time) and NOBODY cares.”

    Now women’s sports need some help in equality; support your local roller derby team!

  25. Floyd

    If a female scientist tends to be “girly” in her personality, so be it.
    If another female scientist tend to have a serious demeanor, that’s OK too.
    Forced “girliness” (or for that matter forced seriousness) in a male or female scientist, like forced laughter, comes across as fake.

    “Mr. Wizard,” which I watched in the 50s and 60s was himself, did science experiments with both boys and girls in the show, and came across as a real person, as did the kids working with him.

  26. Joey Joe Joe

    I welcome comments from women and girls on this.

    How nice of you to give them your permission…


  27. What struck me about the video, or rather the young girl, was that she was so normal. Not particularly geeky, not particularly girly, just true to her interests. And I believe that is the most important message we can send young girls: follow your interests.

    I am a woman and theoretical astrophysicist. I think the video was warm, funny and respectful of young girls.

    The best judges of this are of course the younger generations of girls.

  28. Amanda

    Quite honestly, I think you guys are nitpicking the video way too much.

    Do you really think a video like this is going to make a 12 year old girl say “oh my gosh, after watching this I NEED to be an engineer!!!”? No. I for one was always interested in science, and I actually went to college to become an engineer and switched to meteorology. Those interests were always instilled in me. Most of the girls I knew in both areas had always known they wanted to do some aspect of science. I think the point the video is trying to make is incorporating humor and doing some of the science to make it both educational and entertaining. I do agree about wishing the video incorporated more of the robot and the questions should be watered down a bit, but geez people. I don’t think Amy is trying to make Nobel Prize winners out of these videos. It’s nice to expose girls of things like this even if it is at a silly level.

    As an engineering major, I was part of the society of women engineers and we did a summer camp for girls, where we toured the nuclear reactor and did science projects and toured the individual engineering departments, etc etc. I didn’t go in it thinking each girl is going to go into an area of STEM. You could tell some of them had genuine interest, some didn’t care and obviously were there because of parents, and some were borderline. To expect a 12 year old to know what they want to do when they grow up is a bit silly. Some 20-somethings graduating college still don’t know what they want to do.

    Point being, don’t take this video so darn seriously. At least someone is trying to be proactive of exposing these things to young girls, instead of some of the messages society is sending out.

  29. Anne Nonymous

    *shrug* I think this is the kind of video that would have annoyed me when I was young enough to be the target audience. I got so tired of it being a Big Deal that not only did I like academics (unlike any normal human being, apparently), I was also a girl (how amazing!). It made it impossible to distinguish genuine praise for my skill from condescending praise for being the equivalent of a talking dog. I’d much rather see a show in which both boys and girls discuss their scientific interests (without all the infantilizing pats on the head), and in which it’s just treated as normal and obvious that anyone might be interested in science, regardless of their gender.

    Also, as others have said, give the kids more time to share the cool things they’ve done and spend less time oohing and aahing over their adorable precociousness. Any kid with any sense is going to see right through that kind of nonsense, even if they may not be able to articulate exactly why it’s nonsense. It’s only adults who find that kind of thing appealing.

  30. Grizzly

    @27 I agree, the fact that the girl was normal was refreshing. What wasn’t was just how silly the rest of the people were. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very silly guy in his mid 50’s, but there was a bit too much “fun” that seemed either pointless (which is okay at times) or almost mocking. I dunno. Maybe I’m an old fuddy, but I came away wondering if Amy and crew weren’t poking fun.
    Heck Bill Nye could be silly and serious, but I don’t think he’d ever ask the question about pandas and monkeys. I guess I’m just an old fuddy.

  31. Cindy


    I think others have said it better after my initial comment. I found the stuff that Amy Poehler and the other adults to be annoying, particularly when they were all in lab coats, safety goggles, and gloves. I really would have liked to see more of the girl and showing off her robot.

    As I kid I played with Barbies and also used my older brother’s Erector set to build cars for my Barbies. My dad happened to notice that I had the fine motor skills to braid my Barbies’ hair and he figured I could deal with the small nuts and bolts for the Erector set. Maybe it was my dad’s small encouragement that guided me more towards science (I have a Ph.D. in Astronomy).

  32. Dennis

    Yeah, I didn’t mention that I also found the video to be quite lame – despite having it’s heart in the right place.
    But then again, I seem to be in the minority in that I don’t find Amy Poehler or her ilk, or SNL for the past 25+ years, even the slightest bit amusing.
    And, for the record, I find intelligent women very attractive – especially intelligent women scientists.

  33. Crudely Wrott

    Heh. Funny to see the continued perplexity ‘tween the learned/assumed roles of the sexes that continually bedevil us all. I see that it will be many generations yet before we sort it all out, though not for lack of trying. From lack of historical familiarity, maybe . . .

    Again I hear the words of Mr. Wizard the Lizard as he wisks Tooter the Turtle from another catastrophe, “Be just vhat you is, not vhat you is not. Folks vhat do zis are ze happiest lot.”

    Somehow we manage to continue and prosper owing to the efforts and dedication of women and men who, when young and excitable, saw mainly their differences instead of their similarities. Their contrasts rather than their complements. Silly creatures all as well as bearing the future on their shoulders.

    We learn and grow then learn and teach
    Our children to exceed our reach.

  34. astrokid.nj

    @27 and @29
    Agree with both of you.
    The young girl was calm and comfortable throughout. And I really didnt see much humour in what Amy and her gang did (except for the brief song). And then the dancing towards the end, as if thats the real fun thing, and science isnt. But then, I am a guy, so..

    FTR.. I am extremely happy to see a woman hold her own in the workplace.. science or otherwise. I think guys show additional respect when they see women do it (just because its not as common.. it really should be). Nothing really comes easy in the workplace.. one’s got to earn it. I am a migrated East Indian, working in Manhattan, and I was quite pleased when I made it just with merit and hard work. Thats all that matters.

  35. Laura

    I couldn’t watch the video either (working) but just reading the comments I can get a good idea. I agree with Anne Nonymous (#28) that the best way to encourage girls in science is to just make it a non-issue. All the attention paid to girls in science only highlights the fact that there is some kind of inequality. We shouldn’t be saying “she’s smart…. for a girl”, we need to just say “she’s smart.” Period. I think programs like this almost make the situation worse.

    I’ve been lucky to not have had special treatment or attention in my life. No one ever made me feel different, special, patronized, or dorky because I was a girl who liked science and math. I am a mechanical engineer now, and I feel like everyone at work thinks of me as an engineer first, and a woman second. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I think that’s how it should be.

  36. Kate

    I couldn’t watch it all the way through. Kind of boring. My daughter wants to be an astrophysicist, but she doesn’t give a damn about what other girls are doing. What, are we trying to motivate girls to get interested in STEM because it’s fashionable? Who cares?
    I’m with Laura on this one. I think the first thing we need to do to help women and girls see STEM as an option is to stop acting like it’s so unusual when they show any interest. You know, like, “You ARE? GOOD for YOU!” We need to see it as normal. Not cute, weird, or amazing. Normal, dammit!

  37. Deb

    I’m ambivalent about the video but I completely agree with Josie and several others commenting here that making an issue of ‘women in STEM’ generally makes me uneasy. I’m a reasonably girly girl/woman and I have PhD in Astronomy. For me, it’s never been an issue that I’m female, or at least not one that warranted special treatment. I don’t want to be made to feel like I’m in a special minority; I just want it not to be important. I went to a girls’ school (and maybe that helped and I was lucky) and I had good grades across the board and if someone had made me feel that I was being encouraged into STEM specifically because I was a girl, I think I’d have found that patronising and off-putting and I might have gone in a different direction.

  38. VK

    The video irritated me, and I actually only got to the point where the girl is asked why she likes archery and robotics. I’m a girl and I’m interested in STEM, but I’ve never viewed that as making me better than anyone else. I just enjoy STEM. Not every other girl has to. I’ve been lucky enough to have been surrounded by people who don’t follow any kind of stereotyping for most of my life. The video seemed to give the message that any other “normal” interests are actually inferior. Isn’t it possible for someone to be themselves by not liking STEM? The girl gave being an individual as a reason for her interest in robotics and archery, whereas I thought the whole point of Smart Girls At the Party was to say that anyone can be interested in whatever they want, but that doesn’t follow if they have to force themselves to be “unique.” The point should be that children shouldn’t care at all what other people think of their interests, but that’s not what I saw in the video. They shouldn’t be defying stereotypes just to be rebellious. That isn’t being yourself. Girls should be able to like things that are “girly”, or things that aren’t, or a combination without being judged at all.

    I happen to be Indian. Most of the people I interact with don’t care about my race either, but a couple of time, I’ve had to put up with people thinking that I’m stereotypical and have no personality for being interested in STEM. The thing is, that’s just the way I am. I also like studying literature and art. I’ve never been pushed into my interests. They’re what I naturally turn to, and if that makes others see me as stereotypical, I just ignore it. I don’t think Indians who are interested in STEM are better OR worse than those who are not.

    The same goes for gender stereotypes. People are what they are. Stop focusing on whether they’re stereotypical or not, because support for people who are apparently “unique” is just as bad as support for people are stereotypical. The program would be much improved if it also included girls who had “girly” interests. We should ignore the stereotypes. Emphasis just does more harm.

  39. Grand Lunar

    I would’ve like to see more of what her robot could do.

    I hope she keeps up her interest.

    Truth be told, all of today’s youth could use more STEM.

  40. Blaidd Drwg

    I find it refreshing that Science has a booster who is a SNL alumnus. she provides a bit of balance to that *other* SNL alum – Victoria whats-her-name. You know the one I mean, she played a stereotypical airhead blonde on SNL, with poor comedy skills, and even less as a singer/songwriter. Little did we suspect at the time, SHE WASN’T ACTING.

  41. Apo

    As a person who happens to lack a Y chromosome, I’ve gotta chime in here. That video was, indeed, dreadful. The kid says she makes drawings to figure out her designs – instead of showing a real one, they have her scribbling angles and circles in sidewalk chalk? Honestly? That doesn’t play up her intelligence, if you’ve really got to insist on the “scientists = brainiacs” thing.

    Then the ladies wear lab coats and goggles to see a robot – again, a stereotype of scientists, and it makes the women look like fearful morons for trying to protect themselves against a hunk of plastic and electronics.

    Also, sure, STEM-loving girls can also like cute baby animals. That doesn’t change the fact that to bring up the “which is cuter” thing is a total derailment of the topic at hand.

    For all that they talk up the girl and how awesome it is that she makes robots, that’s as far as it gets – “it’s awesome that she makes robots!” Why not explain a little bit more about how they’re made, how they work, describe the process of science?

    It’s like this is designed not to be a science program for girls, but a self-esteem program to help STEM-minded girls “cope” with their interests.

  42. Gus Snarp

    @Gaston – “Now about changing the WORLD‚Ķ this is a problem in the US so this leap from US to world‚Ķ ”

    If we’re talking about a lack of women in science and problems with the acceptance of women in science, I assure you that it is a world problem, not in the least isolated to the U.S.

  43. mk

    Baby panda or baby monkey?

    I prefer baby apes. Like the one that was actually shown. ;^}

  44. QuietDesperation

    Pfft! No weapons on the robot. Typical girl.


  45. cha

    The name itself rubs me the wrong way. “Girl” is often used as a an insult to adult women who dare to be interested in male dominated areas, couldn’t they have come up with a better name? Surely they are aware of the connotations of that word.

    Also, all this talk about “girly-girls” — it sends the wrong message to kids. Interests should not hinge on personality, you either are interested in something or you are not, to have to come across and say “well, I know someone who is feminine who likes science” is completely ridiculous because it is treating those two as mutually exclusive. The definition of a “girly girl” is very flexible. It’s strange how I’ve been referred to as very feminine by some because of my taste in clothing, only to be described as tough and masculine based on my vocal opinions. “Girly-girl” is a superficial label that needs to be destroyed.

    It seems to me like Rachel is thinking, “these women are morons” during this interview and I have to say I kind of agree, though to be fair, I think misguided is probably the more appropriate word. Gender shouldn’t play a role in discussions like this, but unfortunately it does. What we need is open discussion involving ideas with people of both sexes. The ideas and interest are the important part, not the set of genitals you’re packing. As a teen girl, I was turned off by programs like this because it didn’t take my interests seriously. While I did not choose a career in the sciences, one of my biggest interests is education that incorporates knowledge of both the arts and sciences because let’s face it, science gets the short end of the stick because most elementary school teachers have an arts background.

    We have to get them interested while they’re young if we’re going to encourage them when they’re older.

    I have to add that I think those of you who suggested we treat this behaviour as normal have hit the nail on the head, there are few teens who want to be told they’re abnormal, even if it means they’re intelligent.

  46. ccpetersen

    How about we make a video showing women doing their jobs? If they’re scientists, great. Sometimes I, too, think that some of these things are more about “see how wonderful it is that the bear waltzes at all”… instead of “this person is doing what she/he loves and that’s important.”

    In graduate school, when I was working in a lab doing research, I never ran much into attitudes that women couldn’t do it. We were all there to do a job. What I DID run into was the occasional archaic male who would loudly mouth off that HIS wife stayed home having babies, yadda yadda yadda. In his case, we knew he felt threatened by ANYBODY smarter than him, male or female, so he took it out on females. We ignored him and just did our work.

    But, if I’d seen this movie as a young woman, I don’t know if it would have swayed me one way or the other, simply because I always knew what I wanted to do, and eventually I made it happen.

    #44 Quiet Desperation: women have weapons… quiet, deadly and not what you expect. Beware. ūüėČ

  47. Good idea, poor execution.

  48. jbex

    That’s totally Will Arnett at the dance party at the end of the video. Awesome.

  49. ccpetersen

    Cha makes a good point; nothing toasts my cookies faster than having women referred to as “girls”, even young women. Once they’re old enough to have periods and wear bras, they’re young women. “Girl” just gets used too often in a denigrating way and I find it off-putting. And I say that as the oldest of six sisters, one of whom thinks it’s cute to call accomplished 50-year-old women “girls.”

    I have a friend who’s a doctor who does rounds in high heels and a dress. Frankly, it surprised me, but she said that it always helps her feel more professional — and that people take her more seriously. It’s kind of sad in a way, that she has to jam her feet into unhealthy shoes that are a fetish item, just so she can be taken seriously. But, nobody doubts her abilities…

  50. zamia

    It’s been a long time since I was a girl. I remember reading about Maria Mitchell with great interest (although she was much before I was a girl!)

    A big factor for women going into Science is having a supportive father. My dad understood my interest in astronomy and science and encouraged me to take relevant courses.

    I don’t understand why, after all this time, it still is a radical idea that some young women want to go into science. Women flooded into law and medicine schools 30 years ago and constitute about 1/2 of these fields. Yet I’ve heard recent horror stories of disdainful treatment from professors and supervisors in “hard” sciences. There are still significant men in the field that believe you need testosterone to do science. (Think of Larry Summers; he’s not the only one.) Women in graduate school get shoved aside; major faculties are still female hostile. It seems to me that if you are teaching, you ought to be teaching everybody who pays the money.

    The lack of female role models in STEM departments and the tolerance for regrettable treatment of women students is a disgrace.

    As to the movie, I agree with Teshi, #19 and Cindy #31. I think seeing actual women scientists explain their work is better than a 12-year-old. The movie’s silly streak misses my sense of humor. But I think the effort may be of some value.

  51. Chris Winter

    I’d like to know what Dr. Sally Ride thinks of this video.

  52. I’m a software developer who never encountered much discouragement due to my being a lady. I feel really lucky that way. It means I’ve ended up doing what I love with little resistance from the outside world.

    As for Smart Girls at the Party, I don’t know how I would have felt as a young person watching these, but as a 30-something, I think they’re adorable and chuckle-worthy whether they inspire anyone to do anything or not.


    Chiral: it makes me sad that you want to leave your chosen field asap, but I understand the not-quite-fitting-in aspect of it all.


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