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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 truth—but 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
fair—however 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!
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Verizon's Inspire Her Mind ad and the facts they didn't tell you

6027 Folder Collection
joy published on July 28, 2014    Chuchun Lai translated    Eating reviewed
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