Fact: the gender gap in European research laboratories is wide and vast, with men far outnumbering their female counterparts.
Fact: a new "breathtakingly sexist" video from the European Commission is decidedly not the means by which to change that calculation.
Originally posted on the European Commission's Research & Innovation's website, a new video designed to gin up interest in science for girls was quickly removed last week when the organization's powers that be realized their colossal mistake.
In the video, titled It's a Girl Thing!, which can still be viewed on YouTube, viewers are inundated with shots of young women pointing, giggling, hip-thrusting, blowing kisses, and playing with tubes of lipstick.
The ad's sexist overtones did not go over well with the science community, reports the Los Angeles Times.
"It's as if Disney channel male execs do 'science Barbie,'" geologist and blogger Sharon Hill tweeted in disgust. "Terrible."
Ben Goldacre, author of the Guardian's "Bad Science" column, joked, "The EU have funded a campaign to make women in science wear shorter skirts."
Could the ad be "a fiendish ploy to highlight the stereotyping of women and scientists?" University of Bristol climate scientist Tamsin Edwards quizzed the campaign through Twitter.
As "Science Punk" Frank Swain opines:
Yet another well-meaning yet soul-crushingly misdirected initiative from the public purse, this time in a cack-handed attempt to convince high-heeled, lipstick stained people they've conflated with women in general that science is a Girl Thing. It seems to assume that it's impossible for women to be interested in chemistry unless it's in the context of cosmetics, or biology except insomuch as fashion.
The ad's vitriolic backlash wasn't limited to those with PhDs in science, either. "An epic fail, and waste of public money," one YouTube viewer commented. "Pity, really."
Sexism aside, what really was the ad's point?
Many theories abound, like this one from the Globe and Mail.
Are female scientist meant to be portrayed as cosmetic junkies? Instead of, say, cancer research are they coming up with a superawesome formula for lipstick? And should women expect to receive such scrutinizing stares from male colleagues when they walk into a lab?
Final verdict: "A" for effort, "F-" for WTF were you thinking, EU?
How can we better encourage girls and young women to become scientists?
An Angelino by way of Wilkes-Barre, PA, Sal holds a Political Science degree from George Washington University. Though he began his career in sports, he's written about all things environment since 2007. @SalCardoni | Email Sal