My earlier post questioning whether there are any female lead characters on television who are engineers has been on my mind all afternoon. So I wondered – are there? I decided to expand the career options into any sort of “hard” science degree, and to generally use the definition of that provided by the Patent and Trademark Office as required background to sit for the Patent Bar Exam. Those degrees are listed at page 6 of this document, but generally speaking include most types of engineering, computer science, physics, botany, biology, and chemistry.
I obviously don’t have time to research every television show of all time, so I am going to focus on the top 25 rated television shows as of this date, for the week ending July 18, 2010. These are the top 25 broadcast shows (I used both lists at the link), and these are the top 25 cable shows. I generally used Wikipedia’s descriptions of the lead and secondary characters, but for a few I did a little extra Googling. (For the heck of it, I figured I would also throw in secondary characters.) With respect to some characters, I couldn’t find their degrees and backgrounds, however their character job descriptions don't generally lead one to believe that they have a hard science background.
My initial reaction is that there are lot of reality shows and a lot of cop shows at the top of the ratings at the moment.
And without further ado, here are the current female characters who have hard science degrees:
Rachel – Big Brother – Chemistry Graduate Student/VIP cocktail waitress
Sara Winkle – The Big Bang Theory – Experimental Physicist
Abby Sciuto – NCIS – Possible Ph.D in Chemistry
Sara Sidle Grissom – CSI – Physics degree
Calleigh Duquesne – CSI: Miami – Physics degree
Penelope Garcia – Criminal Minds – dropped out of college, but computer expert on the show so I'm tossing her in.
No engineers at all. Three physics backgrounds. One possible Ph.d in Chemistry, and a reality television show participant who alleges that she is a graduate student in Chemistry.
Kind of sad, huh? No wonder more girls aren't going into the sciences.