Visible or vulnerable?: An exploration of the impacts of – and on – role models

Visible or vulnerable?: An exploration of the impacts of – and on – role models

Author: Merryn McKinnon – Australian National University, Australia, Australia


  • Christine O’Connell – Stony Brook University New York; Riley’s Way Foundation, United States

What does a scientist look like? The well documented stereotypical answer to that question is under renewed focus. In recent years many countries have shown considerable attention to equity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This has seen the emergence of more engagement and development programs drawing upon the use of role models. Arguably this has correspondingly enhanced the potential contribution of science communication and science communicators in transforming the ‘face’ of STEM. The perceived positive influence of role models on women in STEM is the rationale for many initiatives which aim to support the attraction, retention and progression of girls and women in STEM studies and careers. However, recent research suggests making women more visible may also trigger the same stereotypes these role models are meant to address, resulting in making the role models more vulnerable. This presentation will describe the stereotypes that are attributed to women who speak publicly about their work and the potential implications for science communication.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation