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The-Scientist recently posted a short piece on science-related blogs and interviewed seven different science bloggers to find out which blogs they recommend.

One puzzling feature about the piece is that all the bloggers they interviewed were male.

Pretty harmless, right?

Sure.

Except, as others have pointed out (here and here), these kind of invisible moments add up.

Here are some of mine:

I rode my bike to work yesterday and happened on a large bill-board with the phrase: “Are you a long-haired, pony-tail-wearing, software geek?” I was stunned. How did they know? When did I become a target demographic?

Then I realized the person on the poster was a guy.

Sigh.

Our very own Workforce Development Council of King County, which contains Seattle, a sort-of modern city, had a fit of educational benevolence last year. They decided to promote biotechnology careers to young people by producing an set of excellent video interviews. The interviews are great,

but….

…they leave a strong impression that only one in ten biotech employees are female.

This might be true in some industries, but NOT biotechnology.

In another invisible moment, I set through a presentation from an industry executive on genomics and life sciences. That’s not unusual, but one thing was hard to overlook. Throughout the entire talk he referred to all the people working in biotech and life sciences as “he.” I’m sure he knows other pronouns, but he didn’t use them. When I mentioned this oversight to a guy I know, he said I should cut the speaker some slack because he’s from Europe.

Right. Sexism is okay if someone is a foreigner. Whatever American men do is okay, but they’re so much better by comparison. (yes, I am being sarcastic.)

Sigh.

Well, female bloggers, scientific or otherwise, I don’t think we should wait around for Horton the elephant to come find our dust speck and rescue us.

Go check out The-Scientist’s post add your two cents to the discussion.

Remember the Who’s: We are here! We are here! We are here!

Comments

  1. #1 Jorge Gajardo Rojas
    September 20, 2007

    I like blogs write by womens not only in sciences.in fact I
    think are more personal femenine blogs.I like very much your blog.

  2. #2 Sandra Porter
    September 20, 2007

    Thanks Jorge!

    But don’t forget to go to The-Scientist and tell them what you think, too.

  3. #3 Rebecca
    September 21, 2007

    Sandra, the little moments can be really infuriating. I just started a new job, and yesterday I went to my first meeting associated with that job. The man leading the meeting (let’s call him Bob) made a Monty Python joke, which was funny and I got it. But then he apologized to me for boring me, and I said, “No, I got it, Bob!”

    And then one of the other men in the meeting, rushing to my defense, said, “Yeah, when she was in college she probably hung out with a lot of nerds, so she would know Monty Python!” Not because I’m a nerd myself, or because I actually enjoy Monty Python! But because I hung out with nerds!

    What about the Italian guy or the Indian guy in the room? Might they have been “bored” by the reference to Monty Python?

    And then they were all twice as polite to me as they would have been if I’d been a guy, simply because I’m female. I’m not saying I want them to be rude or anything, I just want to be treated like a scientist, not a FEMALE scientist.

  4. #4 Size
    September 21, 2007

    Sandra,
    Do you know if they’re censoring posts over there? I scanned through all of the comments but couldn’t find anything about discrimination, except for one note from Coturnix that seemed to be aimed at the other commenters. All of the comments seem to be readers listing their own favorite blogs.

    Well, I posted my $0.02. We’ll see if it shows up…

    Incidentally, I have never posted here before but I suppose this is as good a time as any to say that I really enjoy your blog. I left chemistry for IT and having read your articles about bioinformatics I’m really considering it for my next career step. Thanks!

  5. #5 Sandra Porter
    September 21, 2007

    Rebecca:

    Hmmm. I’ve been a Monty fan since high school. And, that means I’m a nerd, too?

    Size: Thanks for kind words. I have no idea if they’re censoring comments or not, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t monitor them a little. Otherwise you end with lots of adds for life-style pharmaceuticals and creative ways to work at home.

  6. #6 Alvaro
    September 21, 2007

    Hello Sandra,

    I agree with you. Now, how many female bloggers are there in ScienceBlogs? and why is it rare to see one of their posts in the Top 5/ most active list?

  7. #7 Sandra Porter
    September 21, 2007

    Alvaro:

    Those are reasonable questions. There are 16 female bloggers with ScienceBlogs, plus or minus two women who blog from time to time on page 3.14. Some of the women also belong to group blogs, for example, Sheril is currently blogging with Chris Mooney at The Intersection. OmniBrain, Pure Pedantry, and Dr. Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge are also group blogs with both male and female authors.

    As far as the lists on the side, the most active list represents blogs that get lots of comments. Usually the most active list is dominated by Pharyngula since PZ Myers has a very active group of commenters that follow his blog.

  8. #8 Paul Decelles
    September 23, 2007

    Discouraging for those of us who really work to get everyone interested in science and also try to avoid sexism in our teaching. I tell my female students..back in the dark ages “here’s what happened to women interested in science…(insert favorite horror story from the 60′s here)” I guess we aren’t out of the dark ages after all.

  9. #9 Sarah Dixon
    September 25, 2007

    This issue is a microcosm of the wider world of course. Maybe it seems more extreme in the sciences but i think its common elsewhere too. I studied Physics initially, then Biology and now I am website designer. I also make animations, and do graphic design and have worked in food business and conservation projects. So I have quite a broad view!

    There is a graphic design recruitment company here in the UK that has a slogan ‘Filling the gap…creatively’ and it runs ads that show a white silhouette on a backdrop of a city street, with a short person specification next to it. The silhouettes are ALWAYS ‘cool’ male figures, often on skateboards or carrying male-style bags; how creative is that? It’s like it just doesn’t even occur to them that a woman might want a design job or can be a ‘typical’ designer. It does make me upset still, I never quite know how to handle this kind of thing. One of my responses was to design a women’s glossy magazine the way I (and my girlfriends) would like it to be – you can see it by following the URL link.

  10. #10 Sandra Porter
    September 25, 2007

    Thanks Sarah, Paul, Alvaro, Size, Rebecca, and Jorge.

    I think the most important thing that can be done is to point out these errors of omission and make people aware of what they’re doing and how this can be seen by others.

    At one time, there were only white actors on television, if Hollywood can change, I think scientists can, too.

  11. #11 Size
    September 25, 2007

    They did post my comment and “Ivan Oransky, Deputy Editor, The Scientist” made the following comment in reply:

    “[Comment posted 2007-09-21 15:45:07]

    Size asks why we didn’t ask any female science bloggers for their favorites. The subject has come up on a few blogs.

    Actually, we did, as Simon Frantz explains in a comment on GrrlScientist’s blog: http://scienceblogs.com/grrlscientist/2007/09/favorite_life_science_blogs_wh.php

    Thanks for all your suggestions, and keep them coming!”

    In the post referred to, Simon says that the bloggers represented were the ones who replied to the survey, and who all happened to be men. If accurate, this certainly paints a less conspiratorial picture of the article. They might have made more of an effort to ensure that diverse viewpoints were represented, but I suppose that’s subject to editorial policy.

    In response to Alvaro’s comment above, I’ve never specifically checked but it makes me wonder how well women are represented in the ScienceBlogs Select RSS feed… since that is what I typically read.

    Anyway, just wanted to follow up with The Scientist’s response so everyone could see it.

  12. #12 Sandra Porter
    September 25, 2007

    thanks Size, for the clarification.

    I can answer the question about the ScienceBlogs Select feed.

    We choose whether or not we think an article should be part of the Select Feed by selecting that option when we post it. So, inclusion in the Select feed, is by self selection.

  13. #13 Dave Briggs
    December 6, 2007

    As a guy I have to say women and their science blogs are great! We think the way we think and are used to that, but women can bring perspectives and appreciation we would gloss right over if it wasn’t pointed out to us. The women make the world a much more interesting and colorful place in which to live out a lifetime!
    Dave Briggs :~)

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