For over 30 years there has been interest in how young people's, particularly girls', images of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians (STEM) are constructed. Studies have examined how children's views of science and scientists develop as they grow up and why girls' (and boys') participation in school science declines with age (See, for example, Murphy and Whitelegg, 2006). Key factors include a decline in many girls' self belief in their abilities in science, particularly the physical sciences, as they grow older. In addition many girls reject the stereotypically masculine image of science and scientists as one that they could adopt for themselves. The images of STEM that some girls (and some boys) are uncomfortable with are still pervasive and do not evolve from the educational environment alone.
With this broader context in mind, the (In)visible Witnesses project looked beyond the school environment to investigate another potential sphere of influence on the development of children’s and young peoples’ understanding of the nature and value of STEM and the role it might play in their lives, that of the mass media, specifically children’s television.
The principle aims of the (In)visible Witnesses project, which was commissioned by UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology
(formerly UKRC, now WISE) are to:
Study the (re)construction of gendered representations of STEM on UK television, i.e. to investigate the continuing portrayal of established stereotypes of STEM and document the emergence of new images.
Investigate to what extent these images might have an effect on children and young people's perceptions of STEM