On June 21, the European Commission (the European Union's executive body) released a video called "Science: It's A Girl Thing" as part of a new initiative to attract girls to science and technology careers. In the video, female "scientists" parade around in high heels. On the website for the campaign, a tube of lipstick features prominently.
The backlash was as harsh as it was expected: the Huffington Post called it "the most unintentionally sexist PSA ever"; MSNBC called it "not a good thing"; and Wired rounded up many more appalled reactions.
Over the past few years, attempts to steer girls into careers in the sciences have proliferated. That effort could probably use some livening — an idea that the team behind this video got right. Where they were so, so wrong was in thinking that gratuitous imagery of pink lipstick and models wearing lab glasses and high heels would do the trick.
But instead of sexualizing science in the most cliché way, why not focus on women already accomplishing amazing things in science? The same female leaders in the fields of science and technology are used over and over again to inspire young women — if we're talking about the past, it's Marie Curie; if we're talking about modern times, it's Sheryl Sandberg. They're both fantastic — and heralded for good reason — but we could add a lot more women to the conversation.
Here are six of them: