Here’s my latest for STEM Women on how a sexist shirt worn by Rosetta scientist Matt Taylor is connected to everyday sexism in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and why this matters to broader gender equality efforts in science.
The world has been abuzz with news that the Rosetta spacecraft landed on a comet 500 million kilometres from Earth, in an attempt to collect vital data about the origins of our solar system. Unfortunately, this event is also marred for women in STEM and our allies due to the pervasive power of sexism. Rosetta Project scientist Matt Taylor chose to wear a shirt with semi-nude women, effectively telling the world and our next generation of STEM workers that sexism is still very much part of our professional culture.
This comes only a couple of weeks since the The New York Times declared that sexism is dead in academia (which I also discussed on STEM Women). What this wardrobe choice says is that some male scientists in strategic positions for major science organisations, like the European Space Agency, ESA (and who is also linked to NASA) do not see equality as a serious issue.
On the STEM Women blog, I’ve described how some people see Taylor’s dress as harmless or eccentric, yet we show how this incident is an example of everyday sexism. This includes the daily things that men say and do which contribute to professional exclusion of women in STEM.
Entomologist, Professor Terry Wheeler, noted that this is an important lesson for STEM men like himself, who are senior researchers and have White male privilege.
“We need to make science and research and academia a fair and welcoming place for people who are not white, straight, males… We are only going to get there if senior, white dudes like me either step up and say “yes, let’s change things” and then work to make that change happen, or just shut up and get out of the way”.
On our blog we look at ways that you and your organisation might help to address everyday sexism in STEM.
Learn more on our blog: http://www.stemwomen.net/astronomy-sexism-rosetta-shirtstorm/
Image: Prof Katie Hinde.