Depictions of Women in STEM: Hazel Brownlee-Wellington

July 29, 2021
This post contains spoilers for the book Hazel's Theory of Evolution.

Written by: Alicen Ricard

It’s Pride again in Vancouver which means it’s time for a special Pride edition of our Media Depictions of Women in STEM series. This month we aren’t talking about a woman, but instead a thirteen-year-old girl named Hazel Brownlee-Wellington from the book Hazel’s Theory of Evolution

Hazel is a bright girl in eighth grade. She has recently moved to a new school and has left her only friend, Becca behind. On top of that, one of her moms is pregnant after two miscarriages and she feels like her whole life has been uprooted. Her one comfort at this time is science. She spends a lot of her spare time reading encyclopedias. She loves biology and throughout the book she starts writing a book about misunderstood creatures, because she herself feels misunderstood. 

As in most middle grade novels, Hazel finds out a lot about herself through the book. She learns about asexuality and aromanticism and discovers that she herself is aroace (aromantic and asexual). It was so refreshing to see a book where she was able to explore this at a younger age. No one told her that she’s too young to know, and she was really able to figure it out for herself. 

As she discovers more about herself she decides maybe she isn’t a misunderstood creature after all. She comes to terms with a lot of things in her life. She is happy she discovered she's aroace. She comes to terms with her mom's pregnancy. Her mom has the baby and she sees that everything is fine - so she might not be a misunderstood creature after all, but she still finishes her book. Even though she isn’t a professional scientist, that’s definitely in the cards for her future. 



The former Obama Administration's White House fact sheet lists 3 goals for fictional representation of women in STEM. We are noticing a trend in the movies and television shows we have reviewed - they meet some of the following goals better than others.

1.  Include diverse STEM role models (past and present): There isn't really any one in STEM in the book other than Hazel. She has strong women figures in her life but not strong STEM role models. This book does not reach this goal.

2. Highlight the breadth of STEM careers and social impacts: The book has a bit of biology in it, because that's Hazel's interest. This book did not meet this goal.

3.  Debunk STEM stigmas and misconceptions: This book does show that science can be cool from a young age. Hazel's big thing is misunderstood creatures, which destigmatizes them. This book does meet this goal.