Women in science

This past week, I’ve seen a lot of things on the internet about women in science, and much of it has not been good news. Primarily, I’m thinking of the recent paper in PLoS One that has garnered media coverage about how young scientists, and young women in particular, are often sexually abused and/or assaulted when doing field work. The authors of the study reported that 71% of the female respondents were sexually harassed (received inappropriate comments), and of those 84% were trainees (e.g. graduate students). This is not good news, although it is not entirely surprising, since sexual harassment in the real world is incredibly widespread.

But I also found this blog post by Nicola Hemmings in which she lists out ten reasons that it’s great to be a woman in science, and I wholeheartedly agree with everything she said. I mean, I wouldn’t be writing this post from the research station in Ar, Sweden, if I weren’t a scientist, and I’m able to ask crazy questions like, “do these fish like blue strings of beads more than yellow strings of beads”? and am not laughed at by my colleagues for suggesting to actually do such an experiment! I love being a biologist, and I hate to think that young girls with an interest in science might be discouraged, or taught by society that science is for boys.

Which leads me to another great piece of reading, a blog post by Janet Stemwedel in which she talks about being dismayed by the science kits for girls and her makeup-loving daughter’s reaction to the news that a major manufacturer of children’s science toys is going to stop differentiating between toys ‘for girls’ and toys ‘for boys’.

The common thread through all of these stories is that women are people, and scientists are people, and female scientists are people. People cannot be described by a single stereotype, and all people should be treated equally. A person can like to look nice and do science. A person can be smart and creative. People are complex, and no one fits into a single, one-word descriptor. So let’s all just try treating people like people, ok?





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