Somewhere in the Twitterz a link popped up to this slideshow presentation:
It's a decent enough slide presentation and you'll learn a little about Mendeley along the way. Near the end there's a slide titled "Engineers" with 9 pictures variously titled "What my friends think I do", "What my parents think I do" etc. You are supposed to enjoy the hilariosity of each group's total misconception of who engineers are and what they really do.
Let's ask who the "I" of the photo captions is. Is this slide addressed to you at all? Depends upon who you are. If you are a white male, the answer is yes! In the first photo, we see that what your friends think you are doing is sitting around on a couch gaming - you, a white male, and all your white male buddies. In the "What my parents think I do" photo at least there is one female, with three male figures, all white, looking at construction plans.
The fourth photo is of a young, slightly overweight white boy wearing glasses, non-fashionable clothing, and sitting in front of a computer. The caption reads "What girls think I do." Engineers are boys, and they're white boys, too. There is no corresponding picture for "What boys think I do". There is, however, one for "What kids think I do." So you can be a kid wondering what the grown-up (white male) engineer does, or you can be a girl wondering what the (white) boy does, but you can't be a boy wondering what the girl (of any color) does because that would be...
Well that would just upset our gender norms. And consequently wouldn't seem funny to most of us. The "what girls think I do" is funny only if you accept the premise that the speaker is, indeed must be, a white male who can't get a girlfriend. The girls he cannot attract would, of course not be engineers.
In the last photo we see "What I really do": a grown up white man, sitting in front of a computer. This is so non-inclusive, and so non-representative of the multitude of things engineers do, that it makes me want to cry. This one slide, with very few words but very strong images, hammers home the tired old gender and race stereotype of the engineer as a lonely white male in front of a computer. It's not funny, it's sad and wrong. No one should ever use this visual again, except as an illustration of how easy-peasy it is to do gender and race norming without even trying. I'm fairly certain that wasn't the intent of the person who put this slideshow together, but it is indeed the unfortunate outcome.
The only non-white person that appears in this slideshow is a floating head shot of Aretha Franklin in a slide making a point about respect. She is used more or less as an icon or signifier of the word respect, and has no relation to what engineers or scientists do. This use, combined with the total exclusion of people of color from the imagery of who engineers are, makes me unhappy.
It takes an effort to be inclusive, but it is an effort every speaker should make. If you aren't sure that your speech or presentation is free of unintentional bias, ask someone you trust to review it for you to be sure - especially when illustrations or pictures are included, but for language too. Or I may have to come puke on your shoes. I can understand that people may not see the bias themselves, but by now we all should be aware that it could be there. We all have a responsibility to try, to educate ourselves so we become more aware, and to ask for help before we send our words and chosen images out into the world. Don't be part of the (lazy-ass) easy-peasy bias reproduction machine!