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A Chemical Imbalance is a short documentary which celebrates female scientists and looks at why women are still so under-represented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics).

Highlighting some of the challenges still faced by women, A Chemical Imbalance warns that unconscious bias is perhaps our next biggest obstacle, and that much more needs to be done to achieve parity between the sexes. Unhelpful perceptions, child-care demands and achieving critical mass are just some of the issues explored.

A film by Siri Rødnes & Marie Lidén.

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  1. Louise Hogg
    August 5, 2013

    Nice film with a lot of valid points. I really liked the 3D effect on the old photos at the start and the bits of film of labs in the 70′s. It does make me feel old that the labs I remember from the early 90′s looked more like that than like the modern ones currently in the School of Chemistry.

  2. jane nelson
    August 7, 2013

    I wonder how much your scissors diagram is skewed by concentration on Academic employment of stem-trained women; it could be instructive to discover if industry has made better use of female talent?
    It seems that science disciplines other than chemistry and biology are less subject to bias in the academic area; perhaps bias increases as populations first tend to equalise, threatening a “takeover” ?
    I suppose the patronage which plays an important role in academic appointments necessarily slows up equalisation of career opportunity , but presumably this applies across all disciplines?

    • Polly
      September 4, 2013

      Thanks for your thoughtful and interesting comments.
      Sadly, the pipeline into an industrial career leaks women at about the same rate. The RSE’s report ‘Tapping all our Talents’, written by an expert working group headed by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell,, contains data on this.
      That a bias has increased at the perception of ‘threat of takeover’ is an interesting suggestion. However, a similar result could also happen if people start to see an improvement, think their work is done, and then stop thinking about it. Good work could unravel as unconscious bias takes over again. The loss of female labour MPs and MSPs that occurred after the (successful) positive discrimination action stopped may be a good example of this. It would take some very careful investigation of people’s unconscious bias to look for changes between disciplines and with time, but would be fascinating. I wonder if Harvard’s ‘Project Implicit’ might already have collected some data of relevance to this? The tests on their site are well worth taking.
      Patronage is certainly important, but I’d like to think that a patron would be gender blind in their support of the best scientists. Of course it takes time to do this, but it must be one of the better things of all those that vie for our time.

  3. Michelle de Villiers
    August 30, 2013

    I worked as an engineer in the mining and mechanical engineering fields for about twelve years before the challenges became too much. This film struck a chord. I think/ I hope things are improving for women in STEM.


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and why we care

Prof. Polly Arnold

Polly is the Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, and the executive producer of A Chemical Imbalance.

The Filmmakers

This is the first collaboration between filmmakers Siri Rødnes and Marie Lidén, both of whom are Edinburgh College of Art alumni.

The Author

Cameron Conant is an American writer and journalist with a master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh.