Stop the Stereotypes. Women like science.

BeakerDoes our society think women like science?

I’m worried that there doesn’t seem to be an overall acceptance both genders can find science cool. For example, a friend told me to put my Olympics post at the BlogHer network. I then noticed that there isn’t a science category. Luckily, there was a sports category for that post. But it got me wondering, do we as a society think that women like science? For example, Google was identifying women who like technology and science as (older) men to the amusement of many women involved in online science.

We have initiatives to get girls interested in science but these are limiting if we hold onto the idea that science doesn’t appeal to women.

Science doesn’t have to be disguised like yucky vegetables. Covering ideas and toys in pink glitter doesn’t mean that girls will automatically love them. Recently, Science: it’s a girl thing and LEGO’s new girl-friendly toys have not been well-received by all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like glitter and in high school, I only wore pink and white clothes. But I also love old school LEGO and science. This pink-ification of science and LEGO has me worried that we are trying to trick girls into liking science.

Two sets of MY chromosomes - one metaphase and one interphase

Two sets of MY chromosomes – one metaphase and one interphase

Science is cool! I mean, I got to see my own chromosomes…

And although genetics is my favourite, I’m intrigued with it all. The discovery of the Higgs Boson had me chatting online at midnight, I watched the Mars Curiosity landing live… it is all amazing. I wish science wasn’t relegated to specialty areas.

OK, some girls will like science and some won’t – like boys. If we are constantly having to dress up science and technology for girls, does that imply that they shouldn’t like it?

Science categories for women-specific magazines and networks

As I stated above, the BlogHer network doesn’t have a science category. Now, this lack of science is not specific to the BlogHer network – it is indicative of media and society – but I’ll use them as an example. I went to twitter and complained about the missing category. Lots of women responded that they would like a science category and to BlogHer’s credit, they responded with some suggestions. I’ve included the Storify at the end of this post.

The current BlogHer categories

BlogHerBook Club   Career   DIY   Entertainment   Family   Feminism   Food   Green   Health   Life   Love & Sex   Money
News & Politics   Sports   Style   Tech

These categories make sense, especially when you realize that they probably started as a model from women’s magazines. The categories from 2 lifestyle women’s magazines:

Canadian Living

Redbook

But BlogHer says the following: “We specifically promise: What You Read is What We Think“. So does the lack of science mean that it isn’t important to women? The bottom of the BlogHer site says that the network “creates opportunities for more than 40 million women who blog and their readers to gain exposure, education, community, and economic empowerment. ” There are many women science bloggers and several have posts under Health or Sports or Careers.

On a practical note, one way that networks could include science categories is to combine it with Technology or Environment as is done in general news organizations. CBC has Technology and Science and PBS has Nature and Science. (Side note: American news sites don’t seem to have science categories but ABC Australia is helping us out.)

What should we do?

I think the lack of science categories reflects our society’s belief regarding science and women’s interest in science.. So, if you are a woman science blogger, I think you should highlight the fact that you’re writing about science and even if you have to put it under health or news, tag it ‘science’ so everyone can see the range of topics in this category and that real life women like science.

What do you think? What else can we do?

Please read the storify because there are some interesting exchanges – for example, is science a niche category?



Comments

  1. says

    Although I work on a completely different field (I am myself a researcher, but I work on Indian philosophy), I like reading science news and I would add to your despair the fact that even in the humanities (or at least in the fields which require a long ad hoc preparation, such as knowledge of odd languages and skills to read manuscripts, etc.) one often has to face the problem that *it is not normal to be a woman* (!).
    Sample of a conversation with a (male) colleague a short time ago:
    Me: “For the first time in my life I have been at a conference, on Vaisnavism, where more than 50% of the participants were women”.
    Male colleague (dismissive): “Then I suppose that all papers were about a gender studies approach…”
    Me: “Not at all!”
    Male colleague: “Come on, surely there was something like ‘The role of R?dh? [K???a’s beloved one] in the K???a tales’ and so on!”
    As if women could not do anything but women-ish stuff. As if women were a tiny minority of the world, only interested in itself (I guess one might expect of an Amish scholar to work on Amish religion…).

Any comments? Please play nice.