*knocks hesitantly on door*
Ahem. I’m back. Well, I’ve been busy … No excuse, I know. In fact, here’s an awesome demolition of all that “I’m so BUSY!” talk.
Anyway, I’d like to pimp my latest Guardian article, which I wrote together with @CherryMakes. We were talking about the many laudable initiatives which, broadly, aim to encourage young women and girls to consider science as a viable career.
However, I sometimes wonder if such initiatives are a little counterproductive. I’m not convinced that gender is really an issue in science. I’d even say that science is one of the few places left where no-one really cares if you’re male or female, plain or attractive, fashionable or couldn’t-care-less. For those reasons, I think science is a pretty good place to be female – and I can truthfully say that I have never encountered sexism within a scientific environment. Not to say that it doesn’t ever occur, but I don’t think it is systematic (that is, in Europe. Of course, things are different in many other parts of the world).
So I wouldn’t like young girls to get the impression that science is a tough place to be female, and that they’re going to experience sexism and need lots of support. In reality, it’s unlikely that anyone will make an issue of their gender*. Several degree courses (medicine at veterinary science, for example) are female-dominated.
What I DO feel science still lacks is diversity of economic background – it’s still a pretty middle class enclave, and whenever I’ve felt like the odd one out it’s been for my working class background rather than my gender. My co-author felt likewise.
So we wrote this piece to try to highlight some of the fantastic initiatives which are focusing on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds – kids who may feel that science is something Other People do. We argue that to really increase he diversity of characters within science, we need to actively look for, and then welcome, these young people – boys as well as girls – into our outreach activities.
Anyway, here it is:
*To be fair, there is still a massive shortage of women in more senior roles in science, largely as a consequence of the UK’s lack of subsidised childcare. I think this is an economic rather than a gender issue – although obviously women are held back more than men simply because women do tend to take on the primary carer role within a young family.