‘Science Has No Gender!’ …But Does It Have a Race?

Today, February 11th, is International Day for Women and Girls in Science. Today is a day to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. I’ve talked about women in science on this blog before, and honestly, I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post at all today. I figured I’d just be repeating myself, and at the same time I’m sort of thinking that I’m preaching to the converted – most of the people that read this (as far as I know), are pretty happy with initiatives to improve working environments and opportunities for women in science.

(A note before I start – when I refer to ‘women in science’, I mean every person that identifies as a woman, whether that’s the gender they were assigned at birth or not. To be honest, celebrating and encouraging non-binary people in science should be included in the International Day… title too, but I don’t think the world (i.e. the UN and UNESCO) have come that far yet. That’s a fight for another blog post, but know it’s something that we as a community should be aware of.)

So, why am I writing this blog post at all? Well, today I had a bloody brilliant day. I went to We’re The Furballs – the dog petting cafe that I mentioned in a blog post a few days ago. I was feeling pretty happy with myself because yesterday I did lots of cool science/art related exploration for my Fellowship, and today was a break day that featured a corgi called Waffles, a toy poodle called Lulu, and a sausage dog called Slinky. I also went book shopping, and found the local Sephora – all in all an excellent Monday. That being said, I stopped for ice cream on the way home from the dog petting cafe, and checked Twitter. At the top of my timeline was a post from Hana Ayoob (if you’re not following her, I suggest you remedy that immediately – she also has a wonderful Etsy store) drawing attention to this:

Does anything about UNESCO’s tweet look a little off to you?

No, I’m not talking about spelling errors or unfortunate hashtags, I’m talking about the fact that every single woman in their graphic is white. This made me really, really frustrated. So frustrated in fact that I pretty much forgot about the whole dog petting cafe thing for about 10 minutes.

The whole “we need more women in science” thing is one thing that irritates me on a consistently low level – telling women that we need them in science is not going to make them build a career in science. When I was a teenager choosing my options for subjects at school, the fact that I might be selecting subjects that would push me into a field where there would be less women than men did not encourage me to choose STEM subjects. I wanted to know that women in science were given the same opportunities as men, and the fact that there was (and still is) a shortage of women in science did not fill me with confidence on that front.

ANYWAY. Back to the issue with the graphic above. It’s terrifying that I feel the need to say this, but all women are not able bodied slim white women. This fact should not come as a shock.

If the 7.5 billion people in the world was represented by just 100 people:

50 would be women
50 would be men

60 Asians
16 Africans
14 people from the Americas
10 Europeans

1 would be dying of starvation
11 would be undernourished
22 would be overweight

So if we’re going by what the world looks like, even 1 out of the 5 women in the graphic being white would be an over-representation.

The representation of women in science in the media needs to change. It’s really not that hard – look at the image below.

Image credit: Intersectional Rosie the Riveter Print from Tyler Feder’s Roaring Softly Etsy store

Every single young girl should be able to find someone that she identifies with, and that she can look up to.

If you’re asked to name a woman in science, only being able to name Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin or Ada Lovelace, isn’t a good thing! All of the women in science that I’m seeing being held up as champions and ‘inspirations’ to get girls interested in science are white. That’s not ok.

I don’t want to work in an environment that is full of white women just like I don’t want to work in an environment that is full of white men. I want to work in an environment that is multicultural, heavily diverse, and full of passionate people of all genders, shapes, hues and sizes, feeling supported in the work that they are doing.

I’ve just written 300 words to explain why working in diverse environments is good for science, but I’ve deleted them because we should not be pushing for diversity because it’s good for science. We should be doing it because it’s human decency. As a cisgender able bodied white woman, I am absolutely done trying to explain the advantages of diversity to other privileged people; opening science up to everyone is just fucking ethical.

From UNESCO’s website: “This Day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened. The celebration is led by UNESCO and UN-Women, in collaboration with institutions and civil society partners that promote women and girls’ access to and participation in science.

UNESCO, here’s a reminder that all women and girls play a critical role in science, not just the slim able bodied white women that you have used your sizeable platform to highlight. Do better.

Image credit: Nevertheless We Persist Print from Tyler Feder’s Roaring Softly Etsy store

Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park 2018

This Saturday 8th December, I will shun the comfort on my warm bed and instead sleep outside in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park. No, I haven’t had some sort of break down, there will be lots of other people there with me, including colleagues and friends from work, as we take part in Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park.

Social Bite is a charity that I’ve supported regularly over the last few years; I no longer spend money on Christmas cards, instead choosing to buy Christmas dinner for people that are homeless in various cities across Scotland. That’s an initiative that Social Bite started doing a few years ago in partnership with Itison. It’s a really easy way to donate to charity, and in 2016 over 36,000 meals were donated, more than doubling to 73,000 meals in 2017. I’ll be donating again this Christmas, but I figured that I could do more – hence the sleeping-outside-in-December thing.

Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park started last year in Edinburgh; 8,000 people joined the world’s largest sleep out in Princes St Gardens to raise £4 Million and call for an end to homelessness in Scotland. Now, Social Bite is taking this event across four Scottish cities; Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen. They are asking 12,000 people to take their sleeping bags and wrap up for a night on the streets this December. By doing this, we want to raise money to allow Social Bite’s work to end homelessness in Scotland to continue, and accelerate. In their words, “We want to make Scotland an example for the whole world to follow. We’re a small country. A nation of innovators. The statistics of homelessness in Scotland are not insurmountable.”

If you have any spare pennies, we would really appreciate any and all donations to our fundraising efforts. Find out more about Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park here, and send us your spare pennies here.

Let’s Do Something

Today’s #Blogtober isn’t about anything that I’m doing with regards to academic life; it’s more important than that. I got back from Birmingham today and I’ve just caught up with freelance projects, still got a new pin to design for a Science On A Postcard client, but I’m sat in my office with the snuggliest of jumpers, the most delicious smelling candle I’ve ever known, and a huge mug of tea – it’s not all bad.

I had fully intended on giving today’s blog post a miss because I just have too much other stuff to do, but instead I’m posting something super quickly that I hope can make a difference to some.

This afternoon my local foodbank posted this on Facebook:

Just take a minute to think about that, every single day in a city with a population of 228,800 residents, 170 people are going to one foodbank – I’m not sure exactly how many foodbanks there are across the city, I know of at least 5. The shelves at CFINE are just about empty, and they are seriously struggling to meet demand.

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People within our communities are hungry. If you can afford to donate something – whether it’s cash, a few tins of soup or a tube of toothpaste, please, please do.
I’ve just donated some money to CFINE, if you have a few pounds to spare I urge you to do the same. Not sure where to start? Find your local foodbank here.

International Day of LGBTQ+ People in Science, Technology and Maths (#LGBTSTEMDay)

Today is the first International Day of LGBTQ+ People in Science, Technology and Maths (#LGBTSTEMDay), so I’ve put together this blog post to try and do my bit to draw attention to this initiative. In the past I’ve spoken about my passion for supporting women in STEM, but it’s not only women that are underrepresented and struggle to participate, contribute and thrive in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) environments. The LQBTQ+ community continue to struggle to openly be themselves within our society, and that is unfortunately a situation that bleeds into the world of STEM specifically.

Note: I’m using LGBTQ+ here as an all-encompassing term for people identifying as part of lesbian, day, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual communities. Not sure what these mean? Head to Stonewall for a glossary of definitions.Image result for LGBT

So, why is #LGBTQSTEMDay a thing?

As I said, the LGBTQ+ community are not being supported as they should be in STEM environments. As a straight white cis woman I’m in a pretty privileged situation. The only real battle I might face in terms of discrimination in the workplace is sexism, and while I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of that in any way, the issues encountered and experienced by the LGBTQ+ community are much more complex than that.

  • Studies across Europe indicate that ~20% of LGBTQ+-identifying people felt that they experienced discrimination when job hunting due to their sexual orientation.
  • Many LGBTQ+ employees are closeted at work due to fear of the consequences of them being openly themselves; more than 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ employees lie about their personal lives at work (presumably in an effort to remain closeted).
  • Talented LGBTQ+ employees are known to leave workplaces as a result of unwelcoming environments; 1 in every 10 people identifying as LGBTQ+report this as a reason for leaving a job in the past.

For more evidence see these resources which I found on the LGBT STEM Day website:

Today is all about raising awareness of the issues encountered by the LGBTQ+ community, and more importantly, a day to encourage support to change the landscape of STEM environments to increase diversity and inclusion.

In the spirit of things, here are a few ideas on how you can mark #LGBTSTEMDay yourself:

Image result for being an LGBTQ ally

5 TED Talks Every PhD Student Should Watch

In lots of posts on this blog I’ve told you about my experiences, my advice and things I’ve learned during the process of my PhD. I thought it was about time I shared part of where I get my advice from; TED talks. They’re usually pretty short, and they give really good information in the form of research snippets, life lessons and ideas worth spreading. These are the 5 talks I’ve watched multiple times throughout my PhD, I suggest you watch them too.

Shonda Rhimes: My year of saying yes to everything

“The nation I’m building, the marathon I’m running, the troops, the canvas, the high note, the hum, the hum, the hum. I like that hum. I love that hum. I need that hum. I am that hum. Am I nothing but that hum? And then the hum stopped. Overworked, overused, overdone, burned out. The hum stopped.
When to watch: When you’ve lost your hum, when the PhD gets too much and when you don’t think you’re capable anymore.

Celeste Headlee: 10 ways to have a better conversation

“I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and each other through screens, but rarely do they have an opportunity to hone their interpersonal communications skills. It might sound like a funny question, but we have to ask ourselves: Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversation?”
When to watch: When you’re feeling nervous about going to a conference/networking event, when you’re freaking out about looking like you know what you’re talking about.

Alan Smith: Why you should love statistics

“Very often, we talk about statistics as being the science of uncertainty. My parting thought for today is: actually, statistics is the science of us. And that’s why we should be fascinated by numbers.”
When to watch: When you’re at a point in your PhD that requires statistics, and you really hate statistics.

“I could not believe I had pledged allegiance to research, where our job — you know, the definition of research is to control and predict, to study phenomena for the explicit reason to control and predict. And now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting.
When to watch: When you feel nervous, anxious or not good enough in some way. When you feel vulnerable and you just want to ‘solve’ that feeling and move on.

Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes

“They were a little uncomfortable with it, because we’d never done this before, and they didn’t know exactly how to do it. They can talk — they’re very smooth, and they can write very, very well, but asking them to communicate ideas in a different way was a little uncomfortable for them. But I gave them the room to just do the thing. Go create. Go figure it out. Let’s see what we can do.”
When to watch: The quote above refers to American school kids – but it could just as easily be about PhD students. Watch this when you’ve got bad feedback, when no one’s replying to your emails, when your ethics approvals have taken twice as long to come back that you thought they would.