You don’t have to look very far to find a common stereotype of a scientist – they’re typically characterised as white-haired lab-coat wearing males, smart but reserved and somehow distant from the real world.
We want young people to see that science is so much more than this. Tackling stereotypes about who scientists are, what they look like, and what they do is incredibly important for creating a more diverse and inclusive future. That’s why we’ve partnered with science-based technology company, 3M to bring back our ‘Smashing Stereotypes’ campaign for another British Science Week – celebrating the diverse people and careers in science and engineering!
#SmashingStereotypes encourages science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) employees and researchers to share stories about their day-to-day work. We want to showcase the diversity of the STEM workforce, the broad range of jobs and careers available, and that scientists are just like you.
This year, in addition to profiling inspiring individuals, we’re keen to draw attention to the importance of diverse teams. We’re challenging the ‘lone scientist’ stereotype and highlighting that having teams of diverse people with a range of skills and backgrounds drives innovation. This is especially fitting considering the theme of this year’s British Science Week: ‘Innovating for the Future’.
The team profiles have been created and included in our 2021 campaign to demonstrate how bringing together different experiences, skills, ethnicities, genders, personalities and cultures can challenge the status quo, offering fresh perspectives that enable creativity and innovative thinking to thrive.
Among those to be profiled is a 3M team that is using science to detect counterfeit 3M respirators, a callous crime that has sadly emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association (BSA) said:
“Last British Science Week, we ran Smashing Stereotypes for the first time. We ran this campaign, in partnership with 3M, to actively counteract the stereotypical images of scientists, predominant in society, popular culture and the media, with hopes to shift the common perception of those working in science.”
“We were hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm expressed by those working in STEM to share their stories, and by the eagerness shown by schools, community groups across and organisations across the country getting involved.”
“This year, we’re continuing to showcase the diversity of the people who work in science, in both industry and academia, and the diverse range of roles within – and paths into – the STEM sector. In particular, we’re putting a focus on diverse teams and the importance of teamwork as a critical driver for innovation.”
“Traditionally, the public and society celebrate individual scientists and their ‘lightbulb’ moments. While individual recognition is important, teams and collaborations are integral to innovating for the future. Science doesn’t happen in a vacuum or at an individual level. We’re delighted to use British Science Week as a platform to put diverse teams in the spotlight.”
Dynamic team take an iconic 3M product to the next level
Chris Howitt, 3M’s Research and Development Operations director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said:
“At 3M we are passionate about encouraging diversity in the workplace. We need diversity of thought to come up with creative new ideas and we need to nurture those who think in a different way. Diverse teams are more successful as they tackle problems from different perspectives and are able to bounce ideas off each other to drive the innovations of the future.”
As we look to science to help solve the problems faced by our world and innovate for the future, we need to inspire the next generation of creative minds from all walks of life.
Unfortunately, this isn’t currently reflected in the STEM workforce. STEM careers are experiencing some of the highest levels of growth, yet they still don’t represent wider society. Women make up just a quarter of the UK STEM workforce. Minority ethnic men are 28% less likely to work in STEM than White men. Almost 30% of LGBTQ+ people would not consider a career in STEM due to fear of being discriminated against. And disabled people only represent 5% of the engineering workforce.
The BSA believes that entrenched social stereotypes of science and scientists enable barriers to persist. We hope that the Smashing Stereotypes campaign, in conjunction with 3M, will catalyse conversations progressing towards a much more diverse and inclusive STEM community this British Science Week and beyond.
Want to get involved? From sharing your story to interactive polls or entering our giveaway, there are plenty of ways you can get stuck in.
For more information, visit: https://www.britishscienceweek.org/plan-your-activities/smashing-stereotypes/.
Remember to tag us on social media using the official hashtag so we can see how you’re #SmashingStereotypes!