When most people think of a scientist, we picture a man wearing a white lab coat. When we think of engineers, we think of men wearing hard hats.
The same can be said across all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) industries, where women are not only grossly underrepresented in education and the workplace, but in the images used to represent those industries.
While there are many obstacles as to why so few women end up in STEM careers, a glaringly obvious one is lack of representation.
If girls can’t see women occupying certain spaces, those spaces remain more difficult to access. In fact, according to research by WISE, an organisation inspiring more women and girls to build careers in STEM, the proportion of the STEM workforce made up by women has decreased from 22% to 21% since 2015.
That’s why Getty Images has released a set of striking and aspirational images to challenge the image of STEM industries and make them more inclusive to all, particularly to women and girls.
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The images, which have been shared with The Huffington Post UK exclusively, are part of an international competition staged to re-imagine how STEM subjects are perceived. No more men in lab coats with Bunsen burners.
The winning image (shown above) is ‘Red and Blue’, taken by photographer Stanislaw Pytel, and showcases a young women working on a circuit board.
Other images in the final collection shows a range of women and men of all races and ages in STEM professions including programming, app building, coding, UX design, virtual reality, chemistry, robotics and AI, math, electronics, engineering, software and hardware development.
Edwina Dunn, Chair of Your Life said: “One of the biggest challenges in increasing the STEM workforce lies in changing peoples’ perceptions. Outdated stereotypes of Bunsen burners and lab coats are driving girls away in particular.
“We are delighted with this set of images which help to challenge stereotypes and represent the true picture of exciting science-fuelled jobs of the future.”
Writing in an exclusive blog for HuffPost UK, Dunn said: “We are simply not doing enough to show young people the many inspiring men and women who are right now working on projects to provide the world with cleaner energy sources, to give us healthier foods, to cure cancer, to provide those without shelter with smart homes and so much more.”
Pamela Grossman, Director of Visual Trends at Getty Images: “Despite modern developments, diversity still hits roadblocks when trying to enter industries such as STEM. However, what you see, has the power to help shape what you’ll be, which is why this image competition is so important in helping to re-imagine the STEM leaders of tomorrow.”
WISE research has suggested that around 50,000 talented female students are being lost to other industries every year.
The research, published in October 2016, revealed that girls outperform boys in GCSE science subjects with practically equal in numbers taking these exams across genders.
After GCSEs this figure drops to just 33% of females and just 7% of women take university degrees in technology and engineering.
Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder of STEMettes, a social enterprise working to inspire and support young women into STEM, told The Huffington Post UK that the photo campaign is a “great” and “well implemented” idea.
“The perception problem with STEM is rooted in its image and in the social norms we have around STEM. Having such images readily available and easy to use will certainly help towards changing perceptions and our collective views of ‘who’ does STEM,” she said.
“Put simply, when you can see it, you can believe it.”