My Thoughts regarding sexism in the sciences
“Are you here spend your time on women’s rights, or are you here to get your PhD in engineering?”
I thought for a second. What kind of a question is that?
“Both. I want to do both.”
Then I quickly asked. “Do you want to get a PhD or do you want to promote evolution over creationism.” His research is not in the area of evolution, just as mine is not in the area of gender biases.
The person who asked me this question is a strong promoter of science. He fiercely debates anyone who denies climate change or evolution. It’s not a problem for him. In the scientific community, for the most part, people agree with his views on evolution and climate change.
Yet, when it comes to science regarding social issues, some hard scientists don’t take it seriously, despite the data to back up the results.
When I started noticing differences in the way women and men were treated in engineering, I did research. Sexism is actually a thing– an observable, real thing. The highly renowned science journal Nature even devoted a special issue to women in science very recently. The following quote was on the cover:
Science remains institutionally sexist. Despite some progress, women scientists are still paid less, promoted less frequently, win fewer grants, and are more likely to leave research than similarly qualified men.
The friend asking me the question was trying to help. He was pointing out that some of my male colleagues did not like my “radical views” about women.
What exactly constitutes “radical” for these colleagues?
Apparently, “radical” is the view that sexism and biases still exist in engineering, and that institutions should set up programs to help reduce biases and encourage women not to drop out. When I started a group for graduate women in engineering, the harassment and ridicule from these colleagues began. Starting groups for women and promoting understanding about biases and sexism is evidently “radical.” Still, numerous women show up to these groups despite the devious connotation.
I understand where my friend is coming from, but I disagree that I should stop talking about issues surrounding gender and engineering. The most ground breaking scientific ideas and thoughts are not readily accepted. If change were that easy, we would have no wars, no polarized political parties, and no protests. We would be teaching our young students about climate change. There would be no arguments about whether or not evolution should be taught in schools.
Just as there are people who think I am a crazy liberal with an agenda because I work with instrumentation for atmospheric science, there will be people who think I am crazy because I even suggest that sexism was not cured by the women’s movement in the 60’s. The only way old beliefs will ever change is if the scientific minded people keep talking about the statistics and the data, and the idealists keep propagating the notion that we can live in an even better world than we are living in today.