It’s no secret – women who pursue science-related fields in STEM are treated much differently
than men who do the same, particularly in physics. A significant part of this boils down to how
women in physics are represented in pop culture and the media we consume. Think about it: if
a girl doesn’t see herself on screen, will she understand what’s possible? Will she feel
motivated to broaden her scientific horizons?

An article on the US State Department’s site shares a 2018 study that reveals a mere 37% of
scientists (including physicists and engineers) in film and TV are portrayed by women. Oof.
That’s not a high percentage. What’s more, these are generally stereotypical, one-dimensional
representations of women scientists who are predominantly white. Representation is crucial,
but diverse representation is paramount. Diverse voices breed groundbreaking innovations in
real life.

According to this study from 2017, as early as six years old, girls don’t label themselves as
“really, really smart.” However, they deferred to boys to fill that category, forgoing mentally
advanced games in favor of less stimulating fare. This indicates that girls form opinions of their
intelligence at a young age.

When in college, women physics majors who get “As” feel they possess the same physics self-
efficacy (belief in their ability to excel in physics) as their male counterparts who get “Cs.” Their
lack of confidence, especially when scoring higher grades than men, dramatically influences
their career trajectory. Unfortunately, the same disparity applies to women physics majors who drop out of college. Women have “significantly higher grade-point averages” than men with the same major who
also drop out.

All in all, women feel less recognized for their efforts. This makes sense, given how women are
taught to seek external validation for their self-worth versus men who are instructed to look
inward. Men possess inherent self-worth. Women are told by society to be humble, while men
are lauded for their over-confidence.

Historically, women and marginalized communities have been discouraged from working in
physics and other science-related careers. They’ve also gone unrecognized for their
achievements. For example, Lise Meitner, whose discovery of nuclear fission made the atomic
bomb possible, never won The Nobel Prize despite ardent support from Albert Einstein. She
was even nominated 48 times for the award. Instead, the prize went to her male partner of
three decades. This dismissal of women in STEM leads to them becoming buried in the avalanche of male
scientists studied in history books.

A lack of representation in pop culture/media and history books combined with societal
conditioning and sexist standards pushes girls away from physics and STEM fields.
That’s why we must encourage our girls to pursue career paths in science, physics, technology,
engineering, and beyond. At Dottie Rose, we hope to continue showing them what’s possible
and that they’re just as brilliant as boys despite what society tells them.