Gas station without pumps

2010 July 21

Nerd Girls

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:20
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There is a new TV show coming with the goal of enticing women into engineering.  The IEEE’s online magazine Today’s Engineer has an excellent article about the Nerd Girls genesis at Tufts University, lead by Professor Karen Panetta.  I’m not sure that Nerd Girls is the best name for the show, but I’ll withhold judgment on that until the show has run for a while—it could catch on, though I believe that currently “geek” is more chic than “nerd”.

The Nerd Girls project that Dr. Panetta has been running sounds like a good senior-design capstone course, and she has apparently been successful in getting the women who take her course to continue in engineering—something that has not been accomplished well in other programs.

From the Nerd Girls website:

The first Nerd Girls Club by Dr. Karen Panetta, a professor at Tufts University, to empower her female engineering students and challenge the stereotypes and myths about women in engineering. While considered a maverick for starting Nerd Girls, Dr. Panetta has been instrumental in shifting attitudes about women engineers. Panetta has partnered with documentary filmmakers Paola di Florio and Karen Johnson to extend the reach of Nerd Girls utilizing film, television and web media.

They have a video, but it seems to be as much about showing off how good they look as about being female engineers.  I would have been a bit more impressed by the video if it had included a few less glamorous engineers and spent a bit more time on the content of the student projects. I suppose that if their goal was to make engineering look sexy, they had to conform to current social norms about what else is sexy.

If the TV show casts women who look like those in the casting call, I suspect that their main viewership will be  male engineering students (and older male engineers).  I wonder what followup they plan to find out whether their viewers are male or female, and how many women they convince to go into or stay in engineering.  Still, the show sounds like a more realistic show than a current geek favorite, Mythbusters, whose premise seems to be that science and engineering is about making things blow up.


  1. Hey now wait a minute, Mythbusters is not just about blowing things up. Sometimes they shoot things.

    Comment by Dan — 2010 July 22 @ 07:24 | Reply

  2. I like the basic concept, but yeah, the videos were mostly about, “Hey, look at me, I’m just a really terrific girly-girl in one of the traditional ways in which girls are supposed to be girls and oh by the way I also really like engineering.” Sure, it’s like the hot engineering babes MIT folks did a few calendars for a while back), but why can’t we have a show that says, “Hey, look at me, I’m a really awesome soon-to-be engineer and I’m a really interesting person and I’m not bad-looking but that’s just not my main thing and it doesn’t need to be yours either.”

    Comment by Aimee Yermish — 2010 July 24 @ 17:12 | Reply

    • I think TV producers may be incapable of putting what people do ahead of what they look like. TV seems to be dominated by shallowness.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2010 July 24 @ 18:07 | Reply

  3. I’d agree that it would be nice to see the show focus more on the students work and less on how they look. But at the same time sex sells, and if it makes the show more popular and it reaches a wider audience, is it possible that the end jusitifies the means in that case?

    Comment by Ryan — 2010 August 11 @ 13:58 | Reply

  4. […] more likely to be helpful in creating more female engineers than efforts like Nerd Girls, which I’ve posted about […]

    Pingback by Science conference for high-school girls « Gas station without pumps — 2010 August 30 @ 16:31 | Reply

  5. […] — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 00:25 Tags: computer science, Dot Diva A few weeks ago, I posted about the Nerd Girls TV show that is attempting to make engineering seem cool to teenage girls.  Now I’ve heard of another […]

    Pingback by Dot Divas « Gas station without pumps — 2010 September 28 @ 00:25 | Reply

  6. […] or all summer) are far more likely to produce future scientists and engineers than TV shows (like Nerd Girls) or  web sites (like Dot […]

    Pingback by Expanding Your Horizons « Gas station without pumps — 2010 October 12 @ 00:04 | Reply

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