From Artificial Intelligence to mixology, new campaign aims to illustrate the diversity of science and scientists and help more people engage
(London, 25 February 2020) The British Science Association (BSA) today announced that it is partnering with science-based technology company 3M on a new campaign to tackle stereotypes in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), during British Science Week this year (6 – 15 March 2020).
The ‘smashing stereotypes’ campaign will encourage STEM employees and researchers to share their stories about what they do in their day-to-day work – to highlight the diversity of the STEM workforce, the broad range of jobs and careers available, and that scientists are just like other people – using the campaign hashtag #EverydayScientist on social media.
Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the BSA, said: “Each year during British Science Week, we are always hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by schools and community groups across the country in running events and activities, but stereotypical images of scientists dominate our social media feeds. These include ‘crazy scientist’ shows, children dressed up in lab coats, goggles and crazy hair wigs and sometimes even gendered costumes for the boys and girls. While this can be an engaging (and identifiable) hook for children, we want young people to see that science is so much more than this.
“We’re aiming to highlight the diversity of the people who work in science, in both industry and academia, and the diverse range of roles within – and paths into – the STEM sector. We want to engage the British Science Week audience with this campaign that we hope will help start to shift the perception of who scientists are, what they look like, and what they do.”
Dr. Jayshree Seth, 3M’s global chief science advocate, said: “3M is working to inspire and encourage more people from under-represented groups to learn more about science and the full range of science related careers that can help them make the world a better place to live. We also want to break down barriers and myths; last year our global State of Science Index found that a third of people thought that science is ‘for geniuses’ and many believe that traditional science careers ‘are not satisfying’.
“We need to tackle these societally-entrenched stereotypes of scientists and scientific careers, because we face a whole host of global challenges in the coming decades. We need diverse thinking, creative thought processes and everyone to have a seat at the table (including women and minorities), to understand how to tackle these challenges and build a more sustainable future.”
The campaign will highlight case studies of 3M employees across the week and will crowd source content via scientists sharing their stories using #EverydayScientist on social media.
Dr. Claire Donoghue, an AI Technical Team Leader, and one of the 3M employees profiled during the campaign, creates AI and computer vision concepts to develop new products to improve peoples’ lives. “When I was young, I had no idea this type of job would be available,” she said. “Technology is constantly advancing, and we’ve not yet imagined all the things that will be possible. There will be careers in tech that we can’t currently foresee, so it’s essential that tech roles attract a diverse workforce to generate the creative ideas of the future.”
3M and the BSA hope that the campaign will also chime with the activities of the many thousands of community groups, libraries and cultural institutions who participate in the week; enabling them to celebrate their work in highlighting the links between science and other areas of our everyday lives.
British Science Week 2020 ambassador, children’s author and broadcaster Konnie Huq, said: “I’m pleased to be supporting this campaign which aims to tackle long-held but misplaced assumptions and unconscious biases about what sort of people excel in science.
“It’s important that science represents the whole of society, otherwise the solutions and innovations currently under development will not benefit the whole of society. There are already too many examples of this, such as racially biased Artificial Intelligence (AI), and we need to make sure that the next generation of scientists is much more diverse and representative.”
Progress is being made, with the Women Into Science and Engineering (WISE) 2019 Workforce Statistics report showing we have reached one million women in core-STEM occupations. However, there is still a way to go as the same report also highlighted that the proportion of tech roles filled by women has flatlined at 16% since 2009 – so further action is needed to encourage more women to get into a category of jobs which make up a quarter of the STEM workforce.
Engineering UK’s State of Engineering report 2018 shows there is work to do in supporting ethnic minorities in STEM careers. With stats showing only 8.1% of workers in the engineering sector were from ethnic minority groups, compared with 12.7% in non-engineering sectors, and 12.2% of the broader population.
The BSA believes that entrenched social stereotypes of science and scientists are fuelling this challenge and hopes that the ‘smashing stereotypes’ campaign, in conjunction with 3M, will catalyse a much more diverse and inclusive conversation this British Science Week about who scientists are, what they look like, and what they do.