Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2017




Physics and Computer Science


Is a picture worth a thousand words? This paper discusses a unique science outreach initiative–provocative photo-research exhibits on sexism in science.

Gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is not only a concern from a social justice perspective, but also has negative consequences for scientific innovation and the economy, given that lack of workplace gender diversity is associated with lower revenue and returns. Science outreach (i.e., public outreach by scientists) could be particularly impactful in Waterloo, Ontario – a region known as ‘Canada’s Silicon Valley’ that contributes over $30-billion annually to the global economy. Portraying complex social issues using a visual medium has the potential to be accessible to a diverse audience. Images from two photo-research exhibits #DistractinglySexist (2015) and #DistractinglyHonest (2016) were based on social-psychological literature and findings from research by two of the authors (Hennessey and Foster) on the social costs of confronting sexism in science. Feedback indicates that these exhibits are effective outreach tools, and appear to facilitate discussions on sexism in science, and expand the social network of women in science by connecting those in the series and people who engage with exhibit materials.