Nowadays, our lives revolve around one thing, media, and since we live in a technological age, everything can be reached with a finger tap in the blink of an eye. Without even knowing it, media controls our lives, and we continue to feed off of it whether we acknowledge it or not. Media manipulates what we buy, whom we vote for, how we socialize, and several other aspects of our daily lives. It all lies between our hands and we heavily depend on it to stay in touch with the rapidly changing world around us. It all starts from our Instagram and Twitter accounts, the billboards on the streets, and ends with the shows and movies that we watch. That being said, media can have a strong influence on people if it is used in the right way because we are affected by what we hear and see. It can lead to drastic social and political changes, but most importantly, changes in the individual. Now let me ask you: when was the last time you have seen a female scientist in a movie?
Throughout the years, women have been underrepresented in many areas, especially science related ones, and ever since I was young, I have always wanted to be a boy because it seemed like they could be anything that they wanted to be, anything from an astronaut to a world-renowned scientist. Why do we rarely see women in science-related fields? It is mostly because of the archaic stereotypes stating that women are not smart enough, or that they should stick to taking care of the house and their children. Of course other reasons such as unequal opportunities, unequal pay, and little to no media representation exist, so women usually end up settling for a job that is convenient or no job at all rather than pursuing their dream job in a science field. This has become the norm all around the world, and it is being portrayed as such in all kinds of media, especially entertainment.
Media has done a good job in asserting its power and showing us what is important, relevant, and “true”, and it especially has a huge influence on young gullible teens and children. It is capable of manipulating everyone it comes across, but it did not do as good of a job regarding the encouragement of women to participate in science. The first and last movie that I watched that included rising female geniuses was Hidden Figures, and I have not seen any women scientists in a movie ever since. A quote from FEM Inc. states that “If most of the images of women that a young girl sees fall into a limited number of categories, she will have limited beliefs about who she can become.” I completely agree with this quote because I believe that everyone has been shaped by the things that they were exposed to growing up. Moreover, if young girls are not exposed to any women science role models, then I doubt that they will be encouraged to participate in it.
If mass media included more empowering and inspiring women, it would surely be able to reverse certain stereotypes. And since development starts from a young age, I believe that the media that reaches the youth should be more inclusive of girls in science-related fields. We can start with children’s TV shows and movies because their effect usually grows with the person, and they are capable of shaping children’s mindsets. Recently, a study about children entertainment states that 59.3% of STEM characters in kids’ programming were male and white (79.2%). The gap seems big but its effect is even bigger. Media should create and promote characters that could eventually encourage every type of person whether they were females, people of color, or even disabled because everyone likes to feel included, it makes us feel reassured. Media can help develop a person’s dreams and lead her to greatness only if it is used wisely.
We have a long road ahead of us, and gender equality is still miles away. But if big organizations take action and at least acknowledge this prevalent issue, then we would be a couple of steps closer to achieving our goal. I believe that opportunities should be provided to people based on skills and experience, not based on gender biases. The same thing goes to media, we should work on reshaping its rigid structure to allow change and inclusion of more girls and women in it, especially in the mostly male-dominated field of science.