If I say the word “scientist” to you – what are the first images that come to your mind? Male? Wearing a white coat? Caucasian perhaps? A little nerdy? Now try this:
- Go to http://www.google.com
- Type the word “scientist” into the search bar
- Click the images tab
What do you see? Well what do you know…? …..A page filled with images, mostly of white males wearing lab coats, some wearing the obligatory glasses and some even have the stereotypical “crazy scientist” hair and beards.
Not very inspiring if you are a young female, from any ethnic minority group, thinking of pursuing a STEM career and looking for a role model, is it?
Enter Dr Kyla McMullen, MS and PhD in Computer Science from the University of Michigan. In response to an article in Business Insider earlier this year entitled: 50 Sexiest Scientist Alive which failed to feature any black women in STEM, Kyla decided to create her own list. This list features 73 beautiful, highly accomplished women with careers in STEM Sexy Black Female Scientists.
According to Kyla, “The face of Science needs an extreme makeover. If the current generation is going to be engaged in scientific careers, we need to dispel the stereotypical image of a scientist as being a white, glasses wearing, socially inept nerd.” Kyla is right, the stereotypes have got to go.
As someone who has been in the biotechnology industry for over 17 years, most of the people I meet don’t even fit this stereotype any more, (that’s not to say they don’t exist), but generally the scientists I encounter are from all parts of the world and while the men still outnumber the women, the number of women in the industry are definitely increasing and we definitely aren’t all nerdy-types. STEM careers are for everyone, men and women, nerdy or not and irrespective of your ethnicity. You just have to have passion and drive for your subject of choice and find inspiring people to help you on your journey.
My own heritage is Egyptian and I was lucky enough to grow up with strong female role models and throughout my career I found many more who guided and inspired me through my education and my career in science. Today I am surrounded by many wonderful female doctors, scientists and engineers in my own family as well as my social and professional circles. They are all from diverse ethnic backgrounds including Egyptian, Ghanaian, Mexican, Brazilian, Indian, Korean and Persian.
When I posted Kyla’s list last week – I was contacted by a number of my friends and colleagues asking – where are the lists of brilliant Middle Eastern STEM Women, Latino STEM women, Indian STEM women? It made me wonder – how easy is it for women from ethnic minorities to find STEM roles models? This is why lists like Kyla’s are important. Not only do they showcase the accomplishments of these women, but they also provide a list of role models and potential mentors for the next generation of aspiring female scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. We live in a socially networked world, lets keep these lists coming so we can find each other easily and help each other along the way.
If you have nominations for other women that should be on these lists, please post them in comments or fill in this form and I will work on creating some additional lists!