Women, STEM and TV


Couple of things I wanted to share about the representation of women, and particularly women in STEM, on TV. 

Firstly, I watched the BBC’s Nature’s Boldest Thieves on iPlayer, and was please to see that not only was the presenter a woman, zoologist Lucy Cooke, but that many of the talking heads were women too. There was a really nice gender mix, it was an interesting show, and I really enjoyed it. 

Secondly, I have been watching Agent Carter, a Marvel comics spin-off of Captain America. The lead character is Peggy Carter, a US government agent who goes a little bit rogue when an ex-colleague is unjustly accused of being a traitor. It’s a really, really good show, and Carter is a very well drawn character who is not just smart, sassy and able to kickbox her way out of a tight fix, she’s also empathic, slightly flawed, and a romantic. She’s not a stereotype, she’s actually a very relatable person. So obviously there’s a threat that Agent Carter might get axed. Gah. 

Interestingly, though, some of the most vocal people amongst my followership on Twitter who are calling for Agent Carter to be saved are men. That is, imho, awesome. If Agent Carter speaks to men as well as women, then there’s a chance that it might be saved. But one can’t help wondering if the problem is Carter’s gender. If you did a straight swap and had a man in her role, I doubt that there’d be a question about its renewal. It’s far better than, say, Agents of Shield, with much stronger scripts, so it’s hard to see that gender doesn’t come into it. 


Girls Can Code, on the BBC:

Found the first episode a bit hard going, and was a bit conflicted about the way they’ve done this. They’ve taken five young women (not girls - they are old enough to drink!) who don’t believe they have any tech skills and are, I presume, hoping to prove otherwise. That’s fine 'n all, but you then have to find hooks for their interest, which are of course fashion and make-up which, well, again, I can see why that might work because those are things that many young women are interested in and if you’re trying to get young women who might not be interested in tech to think again you have to go where they are… buuuut, well, it just felt a bit trite. And I can also see how it might backfire, if you have young women or girls who are already interested in tech and are thinking this program is going to speak to them, and then it doesn’t because they are the ‘wrong sort’ of interested in tech, it could have a negative impact.

In short, we need more TV shows about girls, young women and women in STEM so that we can see a plurality of types of people and contexts for STEM.

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I haven’t watched the programme but from your description it sounds like they’ve tried but really missed an opportunity.

I found this series called The Ascent of Woman and watched the first episode and part of the second today on the train. I really enjoyed it. I can’t figure out if I like the presenter or not but it doesn’t matter as the subject is really interesting. It’s a historical look at women and is really trying to be global and there was a really interesting discussion on the veil in the first episode.

Also, and completely off-topic, the first episode has a bit with Irving Finkel who I really like. He is Assistant Keeper Ancient Mesopotamian Script, Languages and Cultures at the British Museum and looks exactly like you’d imagine a Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian artefacts to look like. His beard should win awards! He wrote a book called ‘The Ark Before Noah’ which is ostensibly about the origins of the Noah myth but that’s really just an excuse for him to geek out about cuneiform. It’s wonderful!



I may have to take back my comment about it trying to be global. I finished the second episode and it focused on Asia but there’s one episode to go and so far nothing about women in Africa or the Americas. So it seems to be another ‘good try, but could be better’ for the BBC.



That’s a shame. I’ve yet to watch the Hannah Fry program on Ada, but my parents did and were cross it didn’t mention Ada Lovelace Day!