Being a scientist is not cool for young people & what can we do to change this?
Yesterday I had the opportunity to read a report presented by Google regarding the appeal of computer science careers to a variety of different groups. The research takes into consideration age, gender, ethnic background and a variety of other cultural characteristics and tried to identify what is the reason why there is not a great diversity in this field.
Actually, the report presents very interesting finding, some of which were already perceived by the ones working in the computer science and educational sector. Students seem to show lack of confidence and do not see themselves reflected in a scientific role. Students who are female, Latino or from poorer backgrounds are least likely to have developed computer science skills, limiting their confidence and motivation to enter the field.
What is the reason behind this phenomenon?
Why do girls have less confidence or motivation to become coders?
One of the main, and saddest, reasons why specific groups tend to lose interest in computer science is the fact that western societies have not developed mechanisms to promote the development of computer science skills. On the contrary, people with imagination, motivation and will to try to enter the magic world of coding are being labeled as nerds and geeks. The creation of the nerd stereotype and the portrayal of a person who lacks social and verbal skills, has no appeal to the other gender and is doomed to work in a dark corridor with just a laptop is apparently more harmful than expected.
This nerd stereotype is reinforced and reproduced through a variety of media. It is very possible that story writers use this stereotype to create funny, laughable characters without realizing the global impact of promoting such an idea to young people of a society who shows more and more demand of engineers of all sorts. However, the sustainability of our society is linked to this impact. We need scientists, scientists are colorful, scientists are interesting, scientists help society develop, grow and reach its limits and it is scientists that we need the most.
I had always advocated for the reinforcement of a healthy image of scientists. This image should be reflected in TV series, transmedia worlds, books, novels and video games. There are already interesting examples of societies that produce bright scientists of both genders, India is one of them. Whether girls, boys, or any other group loves to code, to create, to express and contribute to a healthy world it is up to policy makers and more importantly educators and scientists themselves. We need to protect our image, we need to be the first ones to advocate and show that we live in a colorful and vastly interesting world, where there are no limits but only possibilities. As I have already said many times, Scientists should be more popular than Rockstars. We just need to show it!