"Electrical engineering instead of Bibi's Beauty Palace"

zdi.NRW discusses current research results on technology communication for girls

The research project "Technology – Gender – Journalism’ at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences spent more than three years researching which images of technology are conveyed in the media and how this affects interest in technology. The aim was to develop guidelines for technology reporting that appeals to everyone, regardless of gender. Within the project "Electrical engineering instead of Bibi's Beauty Palace’ the research team shot technology videos together with schoolgirls in order to answer the question: How does technology in the media become interesting for girls?

The photo shows the participants in the panel discussion. They stand side by side in a row and smile at the camera.
fltr: Juliane Orth, Gesche Neusel, Kerstin Helmerdig, Elin, Annika, Vera Bauer, Prof. Dr. Susanne Keil © Martin J. Schulz

On March 31, the team around Prof. Dr. Susanne Keil the research results to the public. As part of the event, a panel discussion took place in which the results were discussed by experts from the STEM community. Also present: Kerstin Helmerdig from zdi.NRW. She has been in charge of the zdi focus topic of MINT girls' work for many years.

Juliane Orth, who accompanied the project, chaired the discussion. The participants spoke intensively about the question of how role models work and agreed that peer-to-peer approaches in particular are well received by young women. Gesche Neusel from the Equal Opportunities Office emphasized that MINT offers purely for girls are also important. The students Elin and Annika confirmed this: “Such courses are a safe space for us.”

Guidelines caused controversial discussions

In particular, the participants controversially discussed the question of how humorous girl technology videos should be. "It is crucial that the protagonists are authentic, whether they are more technology-focused or light-hearted and humorous," said Kerstin Helmerdig.

youtuber Vera Bauer arranged the by Prof. Dr. Susanne Keil said of the guidelines he helped develop: "I took a lot of them into account, but it's still great to reflect on such tips again."

The photo shows a situation in the round of talks. Kerstin Helmerdig in the middle has the microphone and speaks while other participants in the discussion listen to her right and left.
© Martin J. Schulz

“Research projects like this are incredibly important. They show us where we are already doing our work correctly and where there is still room for improvement when it comes to effective MINT girls' work," says Kerstin Helmerdig, assessing the research results. "At zdi.NRW, too, we develop general recommendations together with girls - only then do we know what really moves young women."

The guidelines for technical video production for girls and young women contain many tips that correspond to the results of the zdi-MINT work with girls. This includes linking technology with other areas of life. This creates a connection to the everyday life of young people and that makes the topics interesting.

We would like to emphasize these three learnings for the zdi work:

The image has a decorative function. It shows a blue circle with a white tick inside, ticking off a white circle.

We want to give the chance to learn from mistakes. Therefore, problems and challenges in dealing with technology can be discussed calmly. This makes technology videos not only authentic, but also successful.

The image has a decorative function. It shows a blue circle with the white outline of a browser window. There's a heart in the window. The outline of a hand points to the heart.

Entertainment and fun must not be neglected. Not only the information counts, but also the humor and the story around it.

The image has a decorative function. It shows a blue circle with a white video icon in the middle.

Technology should be staged professionally. It does NOT have to be candy pink for girls to be interested in the content. It is much more important that the video quality is right.

Further information on the research project "gender2technik: Technology - Gender - Journalism" can be found on the website gender2technik.de

You can read about the results of the MINT girls’ work we were able to draw from our zdi girls’ camp in October 2022 here: zdi-heldinnen.de

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