As I mentioned in my earlier post, I'm working on some ideas for STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) content for girls, so I wanted some of the website imagery to reflect that. Easy I thought, how hard can it be to find some images of girls interacting with STEM? The results were a bit of an eye opener - which I guess I should have expected, but I was still a bit taken aback.
When I searched for "coding woman", rather than cheery images of women cutting computer code, their monitors washing them in the dull glow of integrated development environments and C# - I got women on the red carpet, women shopping, almost anything but women even in the vicinity of a computer. The first image up was a woman putting her PIN 'code' into an ATM. Not what I had been expecting.
"But of the 87 images on that first page, only four even had a woman associating with a computer"
In fact when you look at the images, almost none of them had women having anything to do with a computer. Now in fairness to shutterstock and their design director, I don't think that they're particularly sexist in this regard (depressingly, my experience with other sites was similar) - and to a degree these sites are a reflection of the images that are constructed and offered up to them by photographers. But of the 87 images on that first page, only four even had a woman associating with a computer, and all of those were below the fold.
But it's an illustrative example of of how girls are socialised about the type of activities they should be participating in. Girls are just airbrushed out of the picture (pretty much literally in this case) when people think about STEM, and the materials they use to represent it.
Hopefully that's something we can make a contribution towards fixing. Stay tuned...