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Sciencey Girls: Discourses Supporting Working-Class Girls to Identify with Science


"Women from working class and some ethnic minority backgrounds continue to be underrepresented in science, particularly in areas such as physical sciences and engineering. Many find it difficult to see science as something that is "for them", which then has implications for their learning and participation in science. In this paper, I discuss findings from a U.K.-based qualitative study with 15 working-class girls, aged 11 to 13, from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Data were collected over the course of one academic year, through interviews and discussion groups with the girls and interviews with their science teachers, and analysed through a post-structural gender lens. The paper foregrounds five science-identifying girls, who negotiated their identification and engagement with science through the following discursive strategies: (i) rendering gender invisible, (ii) drawing attention to the presence of women in science, (iii) reframing "science people" as caring and nurturing, and (iv) cultural discourses of desirability of science. The findings contribute to the understanding of how working class girls-who are often "othered" and constructed as "unintelligible" within the dominant discursive regime of prototypical science-find identification with science possible. The paper discusses the affordances and challenges of each discursive strategy."