Why One YouTuber Wants To Change The Status Quo Of Male-Dominated Science Entertainment

“The only woman I had to look at doing science on TV was Ms. Frizzle from ‘The Magic School Bus.’”

When you think about titans in the realm of science, it's safe to bet that names such as Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson come to mind. But, if one YouTuber has her way, she will be included as equal among these recognizable scientists, and one who changed the game by providing a unique voice and perspective.

Sophie Shrand, the creator and host of the science comedy series Science With Sophie, is tackling the gender inequality in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to improve the underrepresentation of women in fields typically dominated by men. The first season is available on YouTube and fundraising for the second season is now underway on Indiegogo

"Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson are amazing science role models — they are role models of mine as well, but they don't represent the other half of the population out there," Shrand tells A Plus. "Representation matters. It's the scary-but-simple idea that if you can't see it you can't be it. So growing up I had a lot of amazing science role models like Bill Nye, Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, but the only woman I had to look at doing science on TV was Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus, and I love her but she is not real ... she's a cartoon."

Courtesy: Sophie Shrand
Courtesy: Sophie Shrand

According to a 2017 report, women held 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but, when it comes to STEM careers, they only made up 24 percent of the workforce. And even though women hold about the same percentage of undergraduate degrees as the men, they only hold about 30 percent of the undergraduate STEM degrees. All of this on top of the fact that women are less likely to work in STEM occupations, and are more likely to work in education or health care than members of the opposite sex.

By devising Science With Sophie, Shrand is making the show she would have wanted during her childhood — and it is many years overdue. Shrand, who holds degrees in neuroscience and theater from Northeastern University, didn't see funny, smart, or clever women doing science while growing up, and decided to will it into existence herself. That dose of humor that Science With Sophie has comes from Shrand's training at The Second City Conservatory in Chicago — where she currently calls home — and from her improv-trained, all-female writers' room.

"Being a role model is living my dream," Shrand explains. "I created this show to be something I wish I'd had and to be the change I wanted to see in the world. The fact that it is working … it energizes me to move forward with this dream of mine because I know it can work, and I know we can impact millions and millions of kids."

Courtesy: Sophie Shrand
Courtesy: Sophie Shrand

Part of what inspired Shrand to pursue a STEM career pathway is her high school chemistry teacher who she calls "my own real-life Ms. Frizzle." Thanks to that experience, Shrand is now inspiring young people all across the country, notably an 8-year-old girl in Minnesota who had a Science With Sophie-themed birthday party. While that child is definitely the target demo, Shrand's show is for everyone.

Science With Sophie is all about "finding the science all around you" because it's Shrand's belief that "science is everywhere." The first season covered topics such as an informing episode on slime, and the second season is set to explore things such as physics, engineering, and environmental issues. Plus, of course, will be more of Shrand's iconic characters that make things so entertaining. This is something that worked in season 1 and, as season 2 (and beyond) approaches, Shrand has learned a few things — such as being kinder to herself.

As for who Shrand has dreamed up as a dream guest, look no further than a certain lemonade connoisseur. Yep, Beyoncé. Shrand teased that that's her ideal get because she has an episode that needs a Queen Bey. Given that this is science, though, we have our money on that being a buzz-worthy pun for a literal queen bee.

For more information about Science With Sophie, follow Shrand and the show on all social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Want to help? Donate to the Indiegogo campaign here.

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