Seven Things Keeping Women Out Of Science

It’s been a while since Eileen Pollack had her piece “Why are there still so few women in science?” published in the NY Times, but not long enough for the things she said to become obsolete (It was october 2013. Fun fact : at the current rate, we’ll reach 50% of female full professors in..2117).

It’s a long essay mixing bouts of personal experiences she had as a young women studying physics, facts and numbers about women in science, reports of conversation and interviews with other women, and a few anecdotes. It’s very interesting and easy to read, but if you don’t have time, another article at Business Insider builds on the essay to summarize the Seven Things Keeping Women Out of Science. And if you’re really not willing to open another to-read tab in your browser, here are those seven deadly sins of science :

  1. Teasing at school (by classmates and teachers)
  2. Lack of encouragement/proper mentoring.
  3. The big bad stereotypes (e.g. the way scientists are pictured in medias, or female scientists are not pictured in medias)
  4. Childcare (lack of)
  5. Competition (excess of)
  6. Marginalization (less space, less money, less awards), which is a result of :
  7. Bias (as “beautifully” evidenced by C. Moss-Racusin et al., for example)

I would also add 8. Lack of role models (I love this expression : there’s no good equivalent in french). The only thing that I did not really agree with (but somehow found a little bit funny) is this part :

“…at the space telescope institute where she used to work, the women from Italy and France “dress very well, what Americans would call revealing. You’ll see a Frenchwoman in a short skirt and fishnets; that’s normal for them. The men in those countries seem able to keep someone’s sexual identity separate from her scientific identity. American men can’t seem to appreciate a woman as a woman and as a scientist; it’s one or the other.”

As shown by the extensive (negative) comments and discussion that followed a presentation by a PI wearing a leather skirt at my previous institution in Paris, this is not true at all. Unfortunately, if fashion can indeed be quite different, there’s only slight variations in sexism and objectification between countries… And I wouldn’t try wearing heels and fishnets at the next FENS meeting if I’d want people to discuss my science and not my… whatever.

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