Women And Science Absent In Mainstream Media

Nearly 25 years ago the National Women’s History Project, a grassroots organization, lobbied Congress to turn National Women’s History Week into a month-long celebration, designating March as International Women’s History Month. The project aims to recognize the achievements of women in many careers – science, community, sports, government, literature, art – and to help pave the way for new opportunities for girls and young women. Each year, Americans and people around the globe are encouraged to honor women’s rightful place in history.

It’s easy to recognize women’s place in sports, thanks in part to the media and nationally televised events such as tennis’ U.S. Open or the recent Olympic Winter Games. Unfortunately, not all categories are receiving the U.S. media spotlight they deserve.

For example, did you know about two-thirds of Americans can’t name one famous female scientist? Of those who can name one, Marie Curie is about the only name they recall. The survey, Women, Science and Success: The New Face of Innovation, was sponsored by Cone client, L’Oréal USA. The global beauty company embraces the issues of women in science as its strategic corporate philanthropic initiative. Through its For Women in Science program, L’Oréal makes a significant investment in supporting female scientists, offering professional development and generating awareness of its notable work and future ambitions.

I recently flew to Paris to attend L’Oréal’s For Women in Science awards. The company rolled out the red carpet to honor numerous female science heroines. That’s right, heroines. These women have dedicated their lives to unlocking the scientific mysteries that will improve the quality of life for all, such as finding cures to debilitating diseases. Global media swarmed the event, clamoring for seats at the Global Laureates’ workshops and roundtable presentations as they discussed their passions and ambitious research projects. As a result, European media outlets, such as ELLE-Germany, are writing feature stories about the Laureates.

U.S. media do not always react this way. We see plenty of coverage on the latest tech toys that can improve our lives, but we could use more stories about inventive scientific minds behind the race to solve blistering skin diseases. In fact, media are a powerful force in generating greater awareness of issues, including smashing the stereotype that scientists are geeks. Scientists are tasked with solving global problems in an increasingly complex world, and in France they are celebrated by media. It wouldn’t hurt for U.S. media to increase this kind of reporting.

Hopefully, media will be on board as we celebrate the inaugural National Robotics Week, April 10-18, 2010 (Cone client FIRST is an advisory council member). Created by a private-public partnership, National Robotics Week aims to educate people about the “social and cultural impact of robotics technology.” Young people will be encouraged to exercise their greatest muscle – their minds – and could be inspired to, at the least, foster a greater appreciation of science. At best, they could become the next Marie Curie.

R&D are critical for stimulating economic growth and improving our quality of life. There’s no question this is news alongside the scientists who are making this happen. The question is: Will media get excited enough to increase coverage of this type of news?

- Maureen O'Connell, Senior Account Supervisor


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