Science: It’s a girl thing! That’s the name of the campaign launched last week by the European Commission. The campaign has a website with many online resources that will be followed up with activities in various Member States. Included in the launch was a teaser video designed to “go viral” and attract attention to the campaign. And, indeed, the video did go viral. But the reactions were so negative that the Commission removed the video from its website after 30 hours.
We were appointed as independent experts to give background advice on gender issues for this campaign; we met in the spring of 2011, submitted a set of recommendations, and then the Commission took the process further, advised by communication experts.
The communications experts were challenged to translate our recommendations in ways that would reach young women in different countries and of different backgrounds without falling into stereotypes and simple clichés. While we had no involvement with the general campaign or this particular video, we see that this challenge was difficult; the debate around this process is important and must continue.
However, the European Commission should not let itself be derailed by this controversy. The Commission makes many important contributions regarding gender equality and women in science in particular, including positive features of the “It’s a girl thing” campaign, that can be seen at the website.
Improving gender equality in science is essential to increasing the quality of science. Extensive research shows the positive effect of gender balance in workplaces, the contributions of women to the performance of teams, and the value of gendered-perspectives in achieving higher quality research and innovation results for everyone.
Increasing the number of women in science is necessary to maximize societies’ use of available talent and to attain the number of scientists and engineers required by the economy.
We encourage the EC to move forward both with the specific campaign and with its broader work to support women in science. The European Commission is uniquely positioned to play a crucial role in moving Europe forward by emphasizing the evidence-based perspectives we advocated in ways that draw young women into careers in science.
Inés Sánchez de Madariaga Monique Chalude Suzanne de Cheveigné Curt Rice