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  • Do girls fall behind in science and engineering because our society tells them they should

  • be "pretty" rather than "pretty brilliant?"

  • Well that's the message of a new Verizon campaign,

  • and the ad has gone viral.

  • Now a lot of journalists found the ad enthralling. Both NBC and ABC deemed it "powerful." A Slate writer said it was "a blast of refreshing cool air." It

  • brought tears to the eyes of a reporter at Adweek. But so far, not one of these excited

  • reporters thought to check the facts. Here are just a few examples of dubious information

  • that concern the Factual Feminist. For example: "Confidence drops from 72% to 55% between

  • middle school and high school." What's the source? Verizon provides a list of references

  • via a link called "DIVE DEEPER INTO EACH OF OUR STATS." But the source, cited for the confidence

  • drop, is an internet info-graphic posted by someone associated with a website about online

  • engineering degree programs. And what does this confidence gap really mean? Does it refer

  • to confidence in math and science or overall self esteem? That is never explained and no

  • source is offered. Why is Verizon relying on some random, poorly sourced Internet graphic

  • for its research? Let's continue: According to the ad: "66% of 4th grade girls reported

  • that they like science and math1. But by college, only 18% of all engineering majors are female."

  • ABC deemed this finding "startling." Startling yes, but it's also deeply misleading. Engineering

  • is an outlier. Today girls earn 44% of college math degrees, 48 percent of chemistry degrees

  • and 61 percent of biology degrees. But why allow some inconvenient facts to get in the

  • way of a "powerful" shortchanged girl narrative? Suppose you said, "66 percent of 4th grade

  • girls like science and math, but by college, only 61 percent of all biology majors are

  • female" that doesn't quite do the trick. And what's the source for the 66 percent statistic?

  • I don't doubt its truthbut Verizon cites a post from the feminist blog JEZEBEL. The

  • facts behind the "Inspire Her Mind" campaign are a complete mess. And the deeper you dive,

  • the worse it gets. You might think, well even if the statistics are muddled, maybe there

  • is truth in the spirit of the video. But that would be wrong. In one pivotal scene, Samantha's

  • curiosity in marine biology is squelched by her father. From this scene, you would never

  • guess that today girls earn 64 percent of college degrees in marine biology. In another

  • segment, we see a slightly older Samantha appearing to study a poster announcing a science

  • fairhowever she is using the display case glass as a mirror to put on her lip gloss.

  • The message is clear: we are crushing our daughters by insisting they be pretty and

  • lady like. Well, again there is a problem: girls are thriving at science fairs. In many

  • states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, they now outnumber boys at these fairs. They

  • are approaching parity with boys at the prestigious Intel Fair. And look what happened when Google

  • launched its first-ever science fair. The Factual Feminist applauds Verizon for encouraging

  • more girls to pursue careers in math and science, I want that too. But this ad is a lost opportunity.

  • Not only is it filled with phony data and misleading images--it also conveys the message

  • that science is masculine. Throughout the video, and in website materials conventional

  • girl culture (princesses, doll houses, make-up, pretty clothes) is shown as obstacles to girls'

  • science careers. That's a terrible message. Girls can be girly as well as smart, ambitious

  • and formidable scientists. My advice to parents: expose your daughter to a wide range of activities

  • and career paths. Allow her to pursue fields that truly interest her. And, let her know

  • she can be both pretty and pretty brilliant. Well what do you think of the Verizon ad?

  • Should we be worried that more than 3 million people have watched it, or that journalists

  • failed to notice that it was manipulative propaganda? Please leave comments below. This

  • is the last video for this season. We will begin again in September! If you subscribe

  • to the series and follow me on Twitter, we'll alert you when the next video is posted. And

  • remember: Check your facts, not your privilege!

Do girls fall behind in science and engineering because our society tells them they should

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B1 verizon ad percent biology feminist engineering

Verizon's Inspire Her Mind ad and the facts they didn't tell you

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    joy posted on 2014/07/28
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