Why 'Magic School Bus' Returning to TV Is Fantastic News For Women in Science

The news: Ms. Frizzle is making a comeback. This week, Netflix ordered 26 episodes of a new version of Scholastic's original Magic School Bus, the '90s television series that got kids excited about science.


Why it matters: While all of us can celebrate the return of the charmingly geeky, super-enthusiastic field trip champion, Ms. Frizzle's renewed presence in American living rooms is especially important for women and girls. That's because, despite Ms. Frizzle's unstoppable energy and daring thirst for adventure, real-world examples of her character — women who rock the science field — are lacking.


Most of our current media science champions, too, are men, from Cosmos pioneer Neil deGrasse Tyson to Bill Nye, whose recent win in an evolution versus creationism debate inspired a national following.

A dearth of love for science amongst women and girls is certainly not to blame. In fact, while an equal number of young men and women are interested in science, far fewer women go on to become scientists. While women represent nearly half of the workforce, they made up just 26% of all science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs in 2011.

The research: Recent research suggests that's because of a confidence gap. Despite being just as smart or driven, women who like science are reluctant to believe they have what it takes to succeed academically or professionally in the field. It's even worse for women of color, who face not only gender-based but race-based obstacles to employment.


Image Credit (all): AP

Another important factor here is that men — and women — don't take women scientists seriously. A 2012 Yale study showed that physicists, chemists and biologists are more likely to view young male scientists more favorably than women with the same qualifications.

One reason for this might be the fact that women are still a minority in the schools, labs and other science environments they see as children, or a lingering result of the negative stereotypes that portray men as innately better at science than women.

Stanford psychologist Claude Steele investigated this phenomenon in the late '90s. He compared the math test scores of female and male students at the University of Michigan and found that when the women were asked to answer the following questions: (1) I am good at math and (2) It is important to me that I am good at math, their scores dropped. Steele and his team hypothesized that this was a result of the stereotypes that remind women that they are naturally inferior at men in the science and math fields.

Our labs and classrooms should reflect the knowledge that women and men are equally fit for careers in STEM fields. One way to do this is by increasing the number of female science champions on the shows and films we watch. This way these environments, however artificial, would reflect the real-world scenarios we would like to see.

Ms. Frizzle is an exceptional example. To the bus!

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Erin Brodwin

Erin is a science and health writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Popular Science, Scientific American and Psychology Today.

MORE FROM

Twitter was flagging tweets including the word "queer" as potentially "offensive content"

Why Twitter put the word "queer" in the same category as violent, sexual imagery.

How Mark Zuckerberg wants to transform society through Facebook Groups

Facebook has a new mission.

California is making so much solar energy the rest of the country looks like a joke

They're literally paying other states to take their solar power.

This summer, Americans will get the rare chance to see a total solar eclipse

Anyone in the continental U.S. should mark their calendars.

This hilarious 'Floor is lava' meme is way too real for every single millennial

When you were a kid, the floor was just lava. Now it's way more complicated.

The new iOS 11 beta is out and Apple has changed your iPhone's message effects again

A new iOS 11 beta is out and iMessage has a new trick.

Twitter was flagging tweets including the word "queer" as potentially "offensive content"

Why Twitter put the word "queer" in the same category as violent, sexual imagery.

How Mark Zuckerberg wants to transform society through Facebook Groups

Facebook has a new mission.

California is making so much solar energy the rest of the country looks like a joke

They're literally paying other states to take their solar power.

This summer, Americans will get the rare chance to see a total solar eclipse

Anyone in the continental U.S. should mark their calendars.

This hilarious 'Floor is lava' meme is way too real for every single millennial

When you were a kid, the floor was just lava. Now it's way more complicated.

The new iOS 11 beta is out and Apple has changed your iPhone's message effects again

A new iOS 11 beta is out and iMessage has a new trick.