It’s no secret in the world of psychology that observational learning is one of the most powerful unconscious forms of learning (through ‘osmosis’, if you’re up for a biology metaphor or two!). In the early 1960s, Bandura found through his experiments that children who watched adults of the same gender perform actions had a higher likelihood of learning from, and subsequently replicating such behaviour. This theory is born from the idea that behaviour is subconsciously learned, and it makes it easier to behave in a certain way if we have seen others, who we share similarities with, do the same.
When the world of science across social media, and in the public eye, consists of representatives who are mostly male, girls miss out on this crucial aspect of modelling in their lives. Girls need women who are visible and reachable, in order to show them in real-world applications where science can take them. Think of the last scientist or scientific personality you’ve seen on TV, and chances are they were a man.
It’s this missing link between accessible female figures in the scientific field and girls yet to choose careers that is the bridge that Sisters in Science aims to build.
Role models humanize goals and aspirations – they make it foreseeable for girls by providing a real snapshot of what the possibilities are. They also play a part in breaking stigma and stereotypes associated with jobs in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine), and just how fulfilling they can be. A cornerstone of Sisters in Science is engaging curiosity through empowerment, inspiration, and encouragement through open discussion, where women in STEMM careers perform a vital role.
Brilliant women have always been a part of advancements in STEMM, although many of their achievements throughout history have been overshadowed or remembered only through their male counterparts. Today, women make up a higher proportion of STEMM careers than ever before – they’re out there! But the statistics aren’t nearly high enough. With so many more obstacles and difficulties facing women in careers in STEMM, a vital part of making this change is getting more women to stick with it against the odds. The final goal of 50/50 gender representation in STEMM workplaces will create a shift in these environments, and will ultimately lead to a more productive, broader, more representative STEMM community.
In the words of modern philosopher and icon, Beyoncé; “all the women, who are independent, throw your hands up”, and get involved in STEMM!