Science Cheerleaders

I recently came across the science cheerleaders site and I love it. They feature real-life cheerleaders who also happen to be scientists. One of the women they interview is an African-American surgeon-lawyer-cheerleader. And yes, as you can see, from the picture above, they are wearing the standard cheerleader outfits. What this website says to me is you can be a scientist and you can be sexy, if that’s what you choose.

Now, this website is going to drive some of my colleagues crazy. They will see this as exploitation and objectification of women. They would prefer the glorification of the geeky nerd girl.

Personally I LOVE geeky nerd girls, however I also love the science cheerleaders, and whether my colleagues like it or not, a lot of girls will identify with cheerleaders more than the nerd girls.

I want the biggest tent possible for including women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) – it’s about choice and potential – and if you have to choose to be a nerd girl to be a scientist a lot of young women will opt out. I like the idea of glamorous popular, sexy women scientists as role models and I love this website.

Becoming a female scientist in STEM should not be equal to being a nerd girl. If we ever want to significantly increase the number of women in STEM we will need to have ALL kinds of women joining the fold.

Recently, my longtime dentist, a woman of color, and mother of two, told me that maintaining her femininity has always been very important to her throughout dental school, and she never wanted to be one of the boys.

Lets have a tent large enough for all women to be in STEM – women who want to be one of the boys, nerd girls, cheerleaders, ALL women and girls should be able to work in a STEM career pathway, if they choose, without having to sacrifice their identity.

What do you think?

9 Responses to “Science Cheerleaders”

  1. Donna Milgram  on July 25th, 2012

    TColbert I think that is a GREAT poster for men and I love it! There’s a competitive history of men trying to “outman” each other, that doesn’t quite translate for women and girls (not a history of “outwomening”). I love it for the guys though, thanks for sharing!

  2. Donna Milgram  on July 25th, 2012

    Dianne I appreciate your sharing your internal process with us and it was exciting to see you shift! Let me know how science cheerleader is received by your students!

  3. Dianne Purves  on July 24th, 2012

    My first reaction to this post was somewhat negative, because I identify with the nerdy science girls and I harbor a one-sided view of cheerleaders as all being shallow and not very bright. However, like most stereotypes, this one is probably not fair, and certainly not true of ALL cheerleaders.
    But, after thinking about it and visiting the science cheerleader website, I think it is a good thing. I have had many female students in my non-majors biology classes who DO see science and scientists as unsexy. At this age (most of my students are only a year or two out of high school) attracting boys is a high priority. Perhaps if I make them see that you don’t have to be unsexy to be a scientist, I will have more luck in “turning them to the dark side” and persuading non-majors to become STEM majors. Or at least convincing them that science can be interesting.

  4. Donna Milgram  on July 24th, 2012

    Olivia Thanks for sharing your own experience as a woman in a STEM field and a dance team member! I love that your being a member of the Centennette’s actually made STEM more interesting for the young women you were recruiting because it gave you a special status in your community. As Marlene says it’s all good!

  5. TColbert  on July 24th, 2012

    While this poster may appeal to some, it might be more effective to create a poster for more. There is an excellent recruiting example in the poster put out by Oregon Center for Nursing: “Are You Man Enought to be a Nurse?” Check it out at Perhaps creating a poster entitledm “Are you Woman Enough to be a Scientist?” would provide a universal draw.

  6. darlingmarlene  on July 24th, 2012

    Women shouldn’t have to apologize for being beautiful, or good at STEM (science/technology/engineering/math), or both! STEM will benefit from inclusivity, which allows us choices to be who we truly are, and to be the best we can be – it’s all good!

  7. Olivia  on July 24th, 2012

    I LOVE the Science Cheerleaders! Thanks much for sharing the site. There has already been confirming research that many girls interested in STEM choose other careers because they perceive the roles as unfeminine. As Angelina points out, a little creativity can change that perception and make it fun.

    I was on my high school’s dance team, Growing up in a predominately Black community, our dance teams of the 1960s-1970s were a lot like the professional sports team cheerleaders we see today. Most of my peers were surprised that a “smart girl” would not only have such an interest, but could make it through the tryouts for a spot on the team. Sharing this experience would always go over big whenever I returned to my alma mater to encourage kids to pursue STEM education. “You were a Centennette?! I loved that reaction and it always peaked the attention of the girls!

  8. Donna Milgram  on July 18th, 2012

    I completely love that Hannah Montana episode and I have to tell you I was laughing aloud. I’m going to share it with the instructors participating in our online learning communities.

    Thank you!

  9. Angelina  on July 17th, 2012

    I love this post so much! I totally agree that STEM careers don’t have to be all professional and ‘nerdy’ all the time. I actually feel that cheerleading could help teach young girls not only about science but math, engineering and technology as well. I was a cheerleader for 3 years and coming from experience cheers and chants tend to be extremely catchy and I can never seem to get them out of my head. If you were to ask me to recite a cheer I learned 3 years ago at cheer camp I would most likely still remember it. With that said I feel that chants about science, math etc. can really help young girls learn. I’ve always felt that mixing fun with learning is always the best way to go. Another great example of mixing fun with learning is a Hanna Montana episode I watched years ago in which Miley had to find a way to study for her final test for chemistry. In the episode she had a hard time memorizing all the bone names and places so since she is a singer she came up with a bone song and dance which in the end helped her ace the test. Here is a link for the episode I’m talking about with the bone dance song, I understand that the outfits may be somewhat revealing but an outfit doesn’t make the person. These science cheerleaders have a passion for dance and cheer, but they are also very successful which is very inspiring for the younger generation.

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