Gendered representations, particularly those that reinforce sex-role stereotypes, have the potential to influence audience reception. It follows that the images young people see portrayed on television are one factor that has the potential to influence the choices they make about their future careers. With the aim of informing these ongoing debates the Invisible Witnesses? Project Team is investigating representations of science, engineering and technology (SET) on UK terrestrial television from a gender perspective. In this paper we briefly discuss the rationale behind the project and describe our methods of data collection and analysis. Two week-long samples, six months apart, of a wide range of output - e.g. including factual and fictional programmes from primetime, daytime and children’s TV - from the five channels currently broadcasting using analogue signals in the UK, were collected. In our presentation we will describe some quantitative findings from the first week-long sample, e.g. documenting the distribution of programmes that portray SET, and provide qualitative illustrative examples of gendered representations of scientists, engineers and technologists with a view to informing ongoing debates about the influence of popular culture on the uptake of careers in SET by girls and women.

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Invisible witnesses?
– representations of women scientists, engineers and technologists on UK terrestrial television

Richard Holliman   Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology, The Open University, UK.

Elizabeth Whitelegg   Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology, The Open University, UK.

Joachim Allgaier   Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology, The Open University, UK.

Barbara Hodgson   Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology, The Open University, UK.

Eileen Scanlon   Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology, The Open University, UK.

Gendered representations, particularly those that reinforce sex-role stereotypes, have the potential to influence audience reception. It follows that the images young people see portrayed on television are one factor that has the potential to influence the choices they make about their future careers. With the aim of informing these ongoing debates the Invisible Witnesses? Project Team is investigating representations of science, engineering and technology (SET) on UK terrestrial television from a gender perspective. In this paper we briefly discuss the rationale behind the project and describe our methods of data collection and analysis. Two week-long samples, six months apart, of a wide range of output - e.g. including factual and fictional programmes from primetime, daytime and children’s TV - from the five channels currently broadcasting using analogue signals in the UK, were collected. In our presentation we will describe some quantitative findings from the first week-long sample, e.g. documenting the distribution of programmes that portray SET, and provide qualitative illustrative examples of gendered representations of scientists, engineers and technologists with a view to informing ongoing debates about the influence of popular culture on the uptake of careers in SET by girls and women.

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