A post I co-authored with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and Professor Rajini Rao has just been published on the science website, Nature.com. We address the false idea that girls are fundamentally inferior to boys at science due to our biological capabilities. We examine how gender stereotypes negatively impact women’s careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Gender stereotypes are perpetuated through the stories we tell children as soon as they’re born. We show how children in Prep and Grade 1 tend to draw scientists in gender-neutral ways, but by Grade 2 onwards, they start drawing White men in lab coats. By Grade 5 the stereotype that only White men are scientists has taken hold. The stereotype is both gendered and racial, as research shows that even minorities tend to draw White men, thus affecting diversity in science on multiple levels.

This stereotype is used in other ways by teachers, parents, the media and by other figures of authority to force girls to consider that maybe they’re not fit to do science. This is known as the “leaky pipeline,” with studies showing how girls and women leave STEM at various stages of their education and careers due to the cultural pressures and institutional obstacles they face.

It is imperative that those of us committed to equality and diversity collaborate with scientists from other fields in order to make progress. We can’t take for granted that our colleagues will eventually come to see the damage done by biological arguments. We can’t simply leave girls to navigate gender stereotypes on their own. We can’t rely on women being “more confident” and assertive when faced with discrimination, as research shows these individual approaches don’t work.

Read our article including the empirical evidence on the Nature website: http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2014/09/04/nature-vs-nurture-girls-and-stem


“Part of the blame must lie with the practice of labelling the social sciences as soft, which too readily translates as meaning woolly or soft-headed. Because they deal with systems that are highly complex, adaptive and not rigorously rule-bound, the social sciences are among the most difficult of disciplines, both methodologically and intellectually… As Washington Post columnist Charles Lane wrote in a recent article that called for the NSF not to fund any social science: “The ‘larger’ the social or political issue, the more difficult it is to illuminate definitively through the methods of ‘hard science’.”. In part, this just restates the fact that political science is difficult. To conclude that hard problems are better solved by not studying them is ludicrous. Should we slash the physics budget if the problems of dark-matter and dark-energy are not solved? Lane’s statement falls for the very myth it wants to attack: that political science is ruled, like physics, by precise, unique, universal rules. In any case, we have little idea how successful political science has been — politicians rarely seem to pay much heed to evidence-based advice from the social sciences, unless of course that evidence suits them. And to constrain political scientists with utilitarian bean-counting undermines the free academic nature of the whole exercise.”

A different agenda : Nature


#VisualSociology of the #Western #suburbs of #Melbourne. Artificial #lake behind a #ShoppingCentre. Like so many new shopping centres and estates in this area, we must have #water and #ducks surrounding us. The asthetic presumably brings us closer to #nature and beautifies the ever expanding buildings. #sociology #video #WaterGardens #Victoria #Australia

Sociology of Eco-Tourism


In this post, I show how sociology can contribute to collective understandings of sustainable tourism in China. I was inspired in response to the #ISeeTheWorldWithScience initiative promoted by a community I co-manage, Science on Google+. This is a game where members of our community are invited to write a caption for science images using their scientific perspective. The image for this week was of a beautiful forest (above). The instructions were:

I See the World with Science Image Game

Pillars of solitude. Life grabbing hold. Misty Mountains eroded by time. 

What more does science let you see?

#ISeeTheWorldWithScience Game: Suggest a short caption for the picture.  The caption must be founded on solid science but the more surprising the better. The community moderators will choose the best caption and repost an image with the caption on it in. Vote for your favourites by +1ing to influence the moderator’s choice!

Discussion: Discuss any aspect of the photo and what any field of science tells us more about what we are seeing and it’s context, including how we are seeing it, why it’s important.*

I captioned my response with ‘sociology of eco-tourism.’ Here’s why. Continue reading Sociology of Eco-Tourism

The eruptions of the Tungurahua volcano in Huambalo, Ecuador, increased around the 21st August. The volcano is 140 kilometres away from Ecuador’s capital city of Quito. The media has reported that 110 families were evacuated from the area. Volcano Discovery is now reporting that despite the clouds of ash, some landslides, floods and earthquakes, it appears that the eruptions have decreased. This volcano has erupted two to three times over the past three years.

Photos via CNN and National Geographic.