PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF WOMEN IN GEOLOGY IN 2016: THE INFLUENCE OF MASS MEDIA
A general query in an image search engine using the term “scientist” brings up a number of images that share the following traits: people in a sterile lab setting, all wearing a lab coat, and either examining a microscope or chemicals. However, separate queries using the terms “geologist,” “male geologist,” and “female geologist” bring up a number of images that share the following traits: people in the field wearing floppy hats, baggy clothes with many pockets, examining rocks, and often holding a rock hammer. This perception is very similar regardless of the gender of the subject.
Hollywood has fallen short in their representations of women in geology in both scripted television as well as movies. At this time, the only network program with scientist characters in lead roles is The Big Bang Theory, which is noted for one character’s negative comments about geology as a science. The show itself has featured only one character who was a geologist, who was not portrayed in a positive light. Although geologists are staple characters in many disaster movies, very few are women and those movies that do contain female geologists are often rated as “Rotten” on RottenTomatoes.com. This means that fewer people would have the opportunity to see women in these roles in popular fiction.
Many women are fighting back to ensure that women are being seen as scientists and role models. Such endeavors include “The Bearded Lady Project” and TrowelBlazers.com as well as articles highlighting the achievements of specific women. Unfortunately, the emphasis of the projects listed here is on women in paleontology, so more work needs to be done to promote women in geology as a whole.