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6 Inspiring Women In Science The European Commission Might Want To Learn About

The organization just released a widely panned, blatantly sexist video of "sexy" scientists wearing high heels and lipstick to encourage young women to pursue careers in the field. Well, they might want to try talking about real women who are actually succeeding in the field — and not just de facto examples like Marie Curie and Sheryl Sandberg.

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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.

View this video on YouTube

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:


5. Laura Deming

Deming, now 18, enrolled in MIT at age 14. But she dropped out last year to take part in Peter Thiel's fellowship program, which gives students $100,000 to drop out of college and pursue a research project. Ironically, she's working on anti-aging research, and researching the genes that control aging.

6. Elena Aprile

Aprile, who works at Columbia University, studies Dark Matter. She leads a large team that "uses liquid xenon (LXe) to detect and image radiation from a variety of physics phenomena in astrophysics and particle physics." Her book on liquid xenon is frequently cited by top physicists.