STEM Women in Chemistry: Marie Maynard Daly

Black and white photo of Dr Marie Maynard Daly in a lab. She is pouring liquid into a beaker and she wears a lab coat

Wrote this on Marie Maynard Daly for STEM Women, an amazing scientist who also championed diversity. She celebrated her father, who supported her career. Research demonstrates that parental involvement in their children’s careers is important to success, but in science it is especially important for women going into male dominated fields to have their parents actively aware of the challenges they face. This can be harder for working class people whose parents don’t have high educational qualifications and women of colour and those of other minority backgrounds, as they face racism, sexism and other discrimination throughout their education and careers.

Continue reading STEM Women in Chemistry: Marie Maynard Daly

Sociology of Gender Bias in Science

Sociology of Gender Bias in Science
Sociology of Gender Bias in Science. Photos: Texas A&M University-Commerce, CC 2.0

A new study by Dr Corinne Moss-Racusin and colleagues has analysed the public’s comments in response to a prominent study on gender bias in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The researchers find that men are more likely to post negative comments in response to scientific findings about sexism in STEM careers. To provide a flipside illustration, I share some examples of what it is like to be a woman moderator of a large, international science community on Google+. This case study will illustrate the recurring arguments used to invalidate the science on inequality in STEM. These arguments are focused on biological (mis)understandings of gender; stereotypes of what motivates men and women; and a desire to police the boundaries of science. Denying that sexism exists is a common tactic to invalidating the science on gender bias in science, and attacking the social sciences is concurrently used to discredit findings on inequality, as well as support the idea that inequality does not exist in STEM.

Continue reading Sociology of Gender Bias in Science

Science Inequality in the News

I recently published the first of a three-part series of articles for Minority Postdoc exploring gender inequality in science reporting. My series demonstrates how social science can improve media discussions about gender in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Continue reading Science Inequality in the News

Wikipedia and Gender Inequality

A Black woman, Wjhite woman, Asian woman and White man are reading their phones

I was interviewed by LiveScience about how sexism on Wikipedia connects with broader issues of sexism in science and technology.

Less than 10% of Wikipedia’s editors are women and yet Wikipedia is the world’s sixth most-frequently visited website. Here’s the part featuring what I said:

“Men want to shape the type of discussions that we want to have about technology, and then women’s concerns become drowned out by the idea that it’s not important,” said Zuleyka Zevallos, a sociologist and head of Social Science Insights in Australia, who has written about Wikipedia and gender in the past.

Zevallos pointed to a current online controversy called Gamergate, which began when the ex-boyfriend of a video game developer claimed that she had a romantic relationship with a video game journalist. On Twitter and other sites, the conflict quickly turned complicated and ugly, with death and rape threats leveled at female game developers and journalists…

“There is an overly aggressive editing of women’s pages,” Zevallos said, referring to pages that deal with issues of interest to women. Even the Wikipedia page for the word “woman” itself has a history of controversial edits and far more conflict on its “talk” page, where editors discuss changes, than the Wikipedia article on the word “man.” Debates range from arguments over bias and feminism to the appropriate weight for women pictured as representative illustrations in the article.

“Women just get tired,” Zevallos said.

Read the rest:  

Sexism in Academic Science

The question is not: does sexism exist in STEM? Science shows institutional barriers are there. Question is: what are we doing about it?

A few days a go, the New York Times published an Op-Ed by two psychology professors who argue that “Academic Science Isn’t Sexist.” On STEM Women, I look at the various methodological problems with the Op-Ed which is based on a review study conducted by the Op-Ed authors and two economists. The biggest issue is that the way they measure gender inequality does not match the data they have available. The researchers fail to account for institutional factors that impact on women’s under-representation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Continue reading Sexism in Academic Science

Academic Sexism

This is my latest post for STEM Women, which covers the recent Op-Ed in the New York Times claiming that there is no sexism in academia. There’s been a really great response from scientists speaking out against this article, particularly on social media. The issue is to really get the message out to the rest of the public that gender inequality in science is important and ongoing.

Continue reading Academic Sexism

Sociology of Halloween Costumes for Women

Sociology of Halloween Costumes for Women

Today is Halloween in Australia. We don’t really celebrate Halloween as a nation, although trick or treating is slowly becoming more common in some areas. (The kids in my court have been preparing all week by walking back and forth to each other’s houses with little Halloween buckets!) So unless you’re a horror lover like myself, you may only see costumes if you got to a Halloween party. But if you’ve ever had to dress up, as I did a couple of months back for my niece’s party, it can be tough to find a costume that doesn’t hyper-sexualise women, unless of course you make your own. 

There’s a scene in the Tina Fey movie Mean Girls, where the lead character dresses up in an awesome scary costume and everyone is astonished because she isn’t in a revealing outfit (acceptable outfits featured are “sexy mouse”). In the film, they call this the “slut rule.” From the script:

“In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.The hard-core girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears.” 

This passage not only shows how society pathologises women’s sexuality (if you’re sexual you must be a “slut”), but it also reflects how women are punished for their sexuality when acting outside of the constrictive norm (you’re only allowed to be “sexy” on special occasions, like Halloween, and even then you have to follow inane rules about what’s deemed attractive). 

Halloween is also a time when people will be culturally insensitive with their costume choices, thinking minorities should be flattered that their culture is sexualised and fetishised for one day of the year.

I love ghouls, so if you can’t revel in horror with your costume choice, women can still have fun and be empowered, like this little girl who dreams of being a scientist working for NASA!

Image: Jeff Parker. [Text] “Don’t get me wrong, the princess costume is nice, Mum. But this Halloween, I thought I’d dress up as a NASA Mission Commander…” 

#sociology #socialscience  #feminism #stemwomen   #women   #girls  

STEM Women in Physical Sciences: Mary Somerville


I wrote this for STEM Women about Mary Somerville, the woman who made science so popular that she inspired the word “scientist”!

The word “scientist” was coined by Philosopher William Whewell in his 1834 review of Mary Somerville’s On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences. While Somerville was obviously not the first person to practice science, it is a double delight that this term was invented to describe not only a woman in STEM, but also in praise of her public communication of science in beautiful and engaging prose. So in a sense, Somerville was not the first “scientist” but she was also the first science communicator to reach a broad public audience! blogs has published a wonderful review on the enduring impact of Somerville’s opus, On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences. It was an internationally best selling book that pre-dates Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by 25 years.

Continue reading STEM Women in Physical Sciences: Mary Somerville

“I Have as Much Right to be Here”: Women of Colour in Space

A Black child in an astronaut Halloween costume holds a sign that read 'I have as much to read here.' At the bottom is the title of this post: Women of colour in space

I wrote this post below for STEM Women on G+ about the MAKERS documentary focused on women in the American space program. I wanted to add some notes about two women of colour featured in the program.

Latina Engineer Marleen Martinez wanted to be an astronaut from the age of five. She writes the scripts and procedures to test the Orion spacecraft. She is the daughter of migrant farmers and says she overcame a lack of role models to reach her goal:

“I do remember that engineer wasn’t really a girls’ field. There was other things you could do. When people found out I was becoming an engineer, a lot of people were taken aback. Especially being a Hispanic female, it’s not something that you really run into very often, it’s actually very rare.”

Physician and peace-corps worker, Dr Mae Jameson was also featured. She is celebrated as the first Black woman in space, a title she says frustrates her:

“I was really irritated that I was the first African-American woman in space, or the first woman of colour in space in the world. I was irritated because there should have been many more before me…  One of these things that people talk about nowadays is the overview effect [astronaut’s overwhelming experience of seeing the Earth from orbit, as a ‘pale blue dot’ without national boundaries]. But that wasn’t the part that struck me. The perspective that stuck with me is that I am as much a part of this universe as any speck of stardust. I have as much right to be here. It connected me with this greater universe. That perspective of belonging was what was important to me. “

Continue reading “I Have as Much Right to be Here”: Women of Colour in Space