Lazy movie stereotypes that put women off science | Science

It is hardly surprising to hear that there is a lack of diversity in the portrayal of artificial intelligence researchers in movies (Just nine out of 116 AI professionals in key films are women, study finds, 13 February). There is too often an assumption in popular culture that a scientist, inventor or programmer is male, nearly always white and, of course, a driven, eccentric genius. It is a deeply damaging and lazy stereotype, and needs to be dispatched to the dustbin of social and creative history.

At the Institute of Physics, we see the real-life consequences of this in the worryingly low numbers of girls – and all young people from underrepresented backgrounds – studying physics. This is despite the fact that girls got more top grades than boys in A-level maths in 2021 and 2022.

In your article, Prof Dame Wendy Hall calls for a campaign to tackle these stereotypes. Our own Limit Less campaign does exactly that, urging families, schools and the media to bust the misconceptions that put too many young people off physics and science.

It’s time for film-makers to retire the cliche of the lone male scientific genius in favour of portraying scientific endeavour for what it mostly is already, and should be in the future – teams of people of all genders and backgrounds, doing incredible work to make the world a better place.
Rachel Youngman
Institute of Physics

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