Chief Science Correspondent
Everything is awesome, especially now that LEGO has announced the release of three female scientist figures in their lineup this August.
Swedish geochemist Ellen Kooijman submitted the design “Research Institute,” which consists of a paleontologist, an astronomer and a chemist, as a part of the LEGO Winter 2014 Review. Kooijman was announced as the winner earlier this week.
Kooijam said the design shows her design features “professional female mini-figures that also show that girls can do anything they want.”
The problem with the Barbies, as well as this video meant to encourages girls to promote science, is that they often tend to reinforce gender stereotypes by presenting a science through accessorizing.
I don’t care if a scientist looks good in a miniskirt and high heels; I care what she can do.
LEGO is about doing things. Barbie is often about how cute you can look while doing it.
“Research Institute” could have a huge impact in encouraging scientific curiosity in young girls. However, it is important to note that huge strides have been made within the past several decades.
The number of women holding doctoral degrees more than doubled from 1973 to 2005 (21 to 51 percent). However, a report compiled by the National Science Foundation revealed that male Ph.D.s tend to attend from higher-ranked institutions during their undergraduate careers. Even now, certain fields remain greatly unbalanced. In 2011, men made up more than 80 percent of the engineering industry. Additionally, the Nobel Prize has been awarded 807 times to men and 44 times to women (Four of the six award fields are STEM-related.)
Women such as Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin have proven that women are more than capable of being scientists.
The central issue, even in 2014, is the manner in which these women are perceived within the sciences.
My biology professor once told me a riddle [paraphrased]:
“A boy is badly hurt in a car accident. His father was driving. The child is rushed to the hospital and into surgery. The surgeon looks at the patient and says, ‘I’m sorry; I can’t operate on this patient. He’s my son.’ How is this possible?”
Hint: The answer isn’t gay dads or stepfathers.
I’m ashamed to say that I did not realize that the surgeon was actually the mother. My professor said she couldn’t figure it out either. There is no reason to believe that a woman cannot be a successful head surgeon, yet we generally visualize surgeons as men.
As with many things in life, the way to change the future is to influence and guide the next generation. LEGO should be marketing STEM careers to young girls. And if Barbie wants to be a scientist, there’s really no reason she can’t be one as well.
At least a lab coat is a better accessory than a sundress.