“Science Needs Women”

Happy International Women’s Day! I’ll do a couple of posts on this over the next day to commemorate this glorious day for both my time zone in Australia and the rest of you in other parts of the world. I want to start with the challenges that lie ahead. Our STEM Women community has been publishing a series of posts celebrating women in sciences, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). We started with a look at the number of Nobel prize laureates. We shared our post to our other science community, Science on Google+, and faced phenomenal backlash.

Various sexist arguments followed, ranging from: “Women aren’t as smart as men” to “This probably isn’t sexism, it’s something else (but somehow it’s women’s fault still).” None of these people presented evidence, but rather they relied on biased personal anecdotes.This thread was incredibly counter-productive; rather than engaging with the science presented, people wanted to argue that they don’t think that this is an example in sexism.

I’ve previously written why personal observations that refuse gender inequality don’t count as science, and how this is connected to the sociology of beliefs, attitudes, power and culture. For the record, a plethora of studies refute these arguments. Empirical data shows various historical, institutional and cultural reasons why women’s careers and achievements are not recognised in the same way as men.

This quote above from Elizabeth Blackburn, who won a Nobel prize in 2009, is a timely reminder that ties into why we still need International Women’s Day:

This idea that ‘Science needs women’ is really right on target… The ability to solve complex problems is greatly enriched by having different viewpoints.

Read more of our STEM Women posts commemorating this special day on our Google+ page.