My comment on the Guardian article:
It doesn’t surprise me as much as it should that hardly any girls are going into physics. Sad, but girls and boys seem to have become further separated into camps since American TV & culture have overtaken individual national trends over the last 50 years. The 15-year-old girl next door started high school insisting she must do agriculture, but has since discovered make-up, high heels and alcohol and switched to “cheer-leading“/calisthenics as her main interest. Gahhhhh!!! When I started high school in 1964 (yikes!), there was probably some sort of “girls are dumb” talk around whether to study science or not, but at the time, I was socially very unaware. This was in NSW, Australia, where in high school, if you took science and maths, you did it as a whole unit of study, so you couldn’t pick and choose between biology & physics – we also took geology for 4 years. I was a sickly little kid who was also the class “brain” and I had no thoughts about school subjects other than to do the ones I enjoyed: Science, Maths, English, French & Art. I didn’t like History or Geography, so I got out of those as soon as I could. I loved Physics because I had been reading sciencey books and doing my own little real life experiments since I was around 8 and no one had ever discouraged me or made fun of me – so I was lucky being rather isolated/insulated! The only thing that prevented me going on to a career in astrophysics, which I really wanted to do, was the lack of clarity about how there could be a job in it, and the fact that there were no role models presented [I was in a country school with really good teachers but no other professional role models other than the local doctors). I chose to do Medicine at university because I thought I had a good idea what doctors did every day! Although I changed direction several times, I still maintain an interest in the sciences and admire the local Professor of Photonics, who is female, as she has become internationally noted for her drive and intelligence in research, plus she’s a lovely sociable person who looks OK, has a family and does normal things! People should look up Professor Tanya Monro at the University of Adelaide. She’s the foundation professor in the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (fancy physics)- have a look, parents and girls. Unfortunately we can’t prevent the local newspapers from prettying her up in nice clothes and jewellery for official photos, but she’s really quite human!
Interesting that an article on a similar theme of excluding science from “general knowledge” appeared in The Telegraph of all places yesterday:
In this link they mention: “An artist once told the great physicist Richard Feynman that, as a scientist, he couldn’t appreciate a flower’s beauty: “You take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.”… as if science is anti-beauty and anti-the arts! This is exactly the sort of talk that puts girls off doing science right at the precise time when they could get a great start in a lifelong interest and career.
NB. Tanya Monro herself replied about 5 minutes after this blog post appeared. She must have good spotters!