Results of a recent poll by ICM, a public opinion research firm from England, two thirds of the British public and nearly nine out of 10 (88%) of 18-24 year olds are unable to name a single famous female scientist, despite scientists being viewed as a good role model.   The Royal Society , the national academy of science, requested the poll of public attitudes regarding women in science.

Just 12% of 18-24-year-olds polled were able to name a female scientist such as Marie Curie while nearly half (47%) were able to name a male scientist such as Albert Einstein. However, while women are currently less well-known for science, public attitudes to women becoming scientists appear to be relatively progressive. Overall scientists were seen as good role models for girls, proving far more popular than celebrity chefs and popstars.

From a choice of six role model types for a daughter, 47% of respondents chose ‘life-saving doctor’ while ‘Nobel prize-winning scientist’ came second with 20% of first mentions. ‘Olympic gold medallist’ was third (14%) and ‘best-selling novelist’ fourth (9%) with only 5% of respondents choosing a celebrity chef or chart-topping pop star as a suitable role models for young girls.

When asked what career they would like their daughter (real or imagined) to pursue, scientist was the first choice for 18% of respondents compared to 27% for lawyer, 26% for teacher, 17% for nurse, 4% for chef and 2% for builder.

Knowledge of the role played by women in major scientific breakthroughs was also low. Just 6% of those polled by the Royal Society knew that a female scientist (Jocelyn Bell Burnell) played a major part in the discovery of pulsar stars, and only 18% were aware that another woman - Dorothy Hodgkin - discovered the structure of insulin.   Ninety-six% of respondents thought men and women were equally well-suited to a career as a scientist.

Comments

wow, scientist? seems Lindsay Lohan is out of the picture then.. girls in this new generation became dependent on men.

OK, so I really had a hard time with this myself and decided to go up to my 16 year old daughter and ask. She said "Dr. Brennan". It took me an additional 10 minutes to figure out Dr Brennan is actually Emily Deschanel from the TV show Bones. You may be onto something!

While this doesn't surprise me, it saddens me. There's very little out there for children and teens to learn about the women who have made a difference in sciences. A couple years ago my then 11 yo daughter and I spent a summer reading biographies about various scientists, and I was shocked to find so few available, and even of those who were available were rather dry. Kathryn Krull has done a good job with her biographies of famous scientists, but still the only woman she's biographied is Marie Curie. I'd love to see more engaging materials out there for educators and parents to share with their children about the women who have made signficiant strides in science.

I've mentioned various female scientists on my blog from time to time, highlighting their great discoveries and achievements. Those posts rarely get a lot of feedback. However, I have <a href="http://girlscantwhat.com/gifts-for-girls/careers/scientist/" rel="nofollow">drawn a couple of scientist designs</a> and they seem to be quite popular. In fact, I've even had requests from colleges to use the images in presentations to represent women in the science fields. I am wondering if it's just harder for us to grasp what defines a "scientist" because the field is so broad. What does one picture when you say "scientist". Is it someone doing research in a library, or in a lab running tests, or building a rocket or out in the ocean taking water samples? You get a different mental image when you say "marine biologist" versus saying "rocket scientist". Yet they are both considered to be scientists.

Hi i am Andy from the UK. i think you would find the same group hard pushed to name a single male scientist. Cheers Andy.

Apparently, awareness about female scientists is low when compared to their male counterparts. It is surprising to see how parents still prefer their daughters to become scientists instead of chefs or pop stars, for example. Further, there is a perception gap between parents and daughters about what career younger generation would choose.

Study shows that science textbooks are prejudiced against girls. ... images of female scientists in textbooks may boost school girls' performance in ... as putting more images of female role models in science textbooks.

I think it's important that more women become scientists because women do think differently than men and who is to say that that difference in the way women think won't make the difference some day in a very important breakthrough in a cure for a disease like cancer or an energy source that is cheap and "green." There are too few female scientists making a contribution now and that needs to change. There is no reason why a woman can't become the next leading rocket scientist or marine biologist and make some amazing discoveries.

Here is a prime example of always telling your children they can be whatever they desire in life. You would be amazed what a child male or female may be in the future. If it helps better the world I do not care if they are male or female as they could create the next huge break through cure.

"I want to be a scientist" that was my childhood dream but I haven't get to the stage where I fulfill my dreams. Every one must acknowledge the fact that scientists are good and they help us to live much better in advance world.

All too often, children's role models are exactly the kind of people you WOULDN'T want your child growing up to be. It is a crying shame.

I've been in science and engineering most of my working life and haven't heard of Jocelyn Burnell or Dorothy Hodgkin! Maybe because I'm a man and the inspirational men just stay with me more easily.

Amazing the break down on what young women grow up aspiring to be. This study was based out of the UK. If I had to bet, I'd be willing to say that this does not at all reflect the young women of the U.S. Well just my thoughts.

Madam Curie is probably the only female scientist I could have named too. On the other hand, Steven Hawking, Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Hubble and many other males come to mind. That's likely to change. As more women enter Scientific fields more of them will become memorable.

I think that scientists are a very positive role model for girls. Scientists can show young girls that there is more to them than the gender roles which are commonly expected of them. Thank you for sharing this good post.

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