Recently I joined Women in STEM, a group of women researchers committed to addressing gender inequality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Earlier today Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I co-hosted the first of our new fortnightly interview series. We’ll be talking with STEM professionals who want to advance gender diversity in the sciences.

Today’s chat was with Professor Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist and editor-in-chief of the open-access journal PLoS Biology. Jonathan was a fantastic guest who spoke candidly about the need for male academics to be more proactive in addressing inequality. He gave some practical examples of how women’s participation in science can be bolstered by simple measures, such as by: offering childcare as part of academic conference services; through diversity training for hiring panels; and providing better mentorship for young women in science.

I gave a shout out to sociology during the Hangout. I noted that while sociologists still face career barriers regarding race, gender, sexuality and other minority relations, we have a shared language to discuss inequality. Sociology is centrally concerned with addressing disadvantage, so we have the vocabulary and training to start conversations about these issues. Most other disciplines don’t talk about inequality at all. This means that women are expected to suffer in silence and navigate career barriers alone. As Buddhini points out, academia represents a “leaky pipe” where the further up you go in an academic faculty, the less women and minorities there are.

Gender and diversity matters should be central to all academic training, at every level, and for all disciplines.

There is a plethora of studies showing inequality is a fact in science. STEM Women starts off from this position and so we ask: what are going to do to move forward and address this disadvantage?

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