"Science, it's a girl thing!" says EU Commission, holding lipstick and bunsen burner

If we cut between them really fast, they look like the same thing!

Three women march towards the camera, immaculate in high heels and mini dresses. They pause to smoulder in an end-of-the-catwalk way at a man in a lab coat, who looks up from his microscope (startled? In awe?) at these confident young minxes. The camera focuses in on one of their shoes.

The video continues, cutting between a fashion shoot and "science things" (which include a big letter H with the word 'hydrogen' next to it) really really fast. Look girls, they're basically the same thing!

Believe it or not, this is a video from the EU Commission which is trying to overcome stereotypes about women. It's trying to get women into science. The guy in the lab coat is actually supposed to be thinking "oh no, these women are going to take my job". He's supposed to be thinking "wow, I never thought of women being scientists before, but now I see them in the lab, doing catwalking, I can really visualise it".

The EU Commission may as well have put a lipstick on a string, and filmed 18 year old models doing a belly crawl after it  from the nail parlour (or wherever they would normally be) to the lab bench. But that's not what they think they're doing:

“We want to overturn clichés and show women and girls, and boys too, that science is not about old men in white coats," said Geoghegan-Quinn, European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday.

She said that the "Science, it's a girl thing!" video is a taster for a campaign to get more girls into science, and that the campaign will cover 27 EU member states for the next three years. Cover them with pink, sparkly, make-up related science.

To be fair to the EU Commission, flagrant hypocritical misogyny is something gender-targeted campaigns have always had to skirt around.

It's like this: "We're trying to overcome stereotypes. Yet we're targeting a whole gender - women in general. We need to find a way to appeal to the whole of womenkind. Yet we don't want to use stereotypes. Yet we need to appeal to a whole gender. Yet we don't want to use stereotypes."

It's difficult. Solution? Don't do it. This kind of campaign insults women who are interested in science already and can more than hold their own with the boys. They're the ones we need to think about.

UPDATE: Great summary from James Monk:

UPDATE 23.06.2012 13.10: The original video has been made private on YouTube, but you can still watch it as part of (female) astronomer Dr Meghan Grey's reaction vlog here:

Science, it's a girl thing! Photograph: Getty Images

Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill.

Photo: Getty Images
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The future of policing is still at risk even after George Osborne's U-Turn

The police have avoided the worst, but crime is changing and they cannot stand still. 

We will have to wait for the unofficial briefings and the ministerial memoirs to understand what role the tragic events in Paris had on the Chancellor’s decision to sustain the police budget in cash terms and increase it overall by the end of the parliament.  Higher projected tax revenues gave the Chancellor a surprising degree of fiscal flexibility, but the atrocities in Paris certainly pushed questions of policing and security to the top of the political agenda. For a police service expecting anything from a 20 to a 30 per cent cut in funding, fears reinforced by the apparent hard line the Chancellor took over the weekend, this reprieve is an almighty relief.  

So, what was announced?  The overall police budget will be protected in real terms (£900 million more in cash terms) up to 2019/20 with the following important caveats.  First, central government grant to forces will be reduced in cash terms by 2019/20, but forces will be able to bid into a new transformation fund designed to finance moves such as greater collaboration between forces.  In other words there is a cash frozen budget (given important assumptions about council tax) eaten away by inflation and therefore requiring further efficiencies and service redesign.

Second, the flat cash budget for forces assumes increases in the police element of the council tax. Here, there is an interesting new flexibility for Police and Crime Commissioners.  One interpretation is that instead of precept increases being capped at 2%, they will be capped at £12 million, although we need further detail to be certain.  This may mean that forces which currently raise relatively small cash amounts from their precept will be able to raise considerably more if Police and Crime Commissioners have the courage to put up taxes.  

With those caveats, however, this is clearly a much better deal for policing than most commentators (myself included) predicted.  There will be less pressure to reduce officer numbers. Neighbourhood policing, previously under real threat, is likely to remain an important component of the policing model in England and Wales.  This is good news.

However, the police service should not use this financial reprieve as an excuse to duck important reforms.  The reforms that the police have already planned should continue, with any savings reinvested in an improved and more effective service.

It would be a retrograde step for candidates in the 2016 PCC elections to start pledging (as I am certain many will) to ‘protect officer numbers’.  We still need to rebalance the police workforce.   We need more staff with the kind of digital skills required to tackle cybercrime.  We need more crime analysts to help deploy police resources more effectively.  Blanket commitments to maintain officer numbers will get in the way of important reforms.

The argument for inter-force collaboration and, indeed, force mergers does not go away. The new top sliced transformation fund is designed in part to facilitate collaboration, but the fact remains that a 43 force structure no longer makes sense in operational or financial terms.

The police still have to adapt to a changing world. Falling levels of traditional crime and the explosion in online crime, particularly fraud and hacking, means we need an entirely different kind of police service.  Many of the pressures the police experience from non-crime demand will not go away. Big cuts to local government funding and the wider criminal justice system mean we need to reorganise the public service frontline to deal with problems such as high reoffending rates, child safeguarding and rising levels of mental illness.

Before yesterday I thought policing faced an existential moment and I stand by that. While the service has now secured significant financial breathing space, it still needs to adapt to an increasingly complex world. 

Rick Muir is director of the Police Foundation