By Nicola Hemmings @HemmingsNicola1
There have been a lot of pretty awful examples of sexism (and other types of discrimination) in science over the last week or so. I can’t help but feel that any young woman studying science at school, college or university will look at this state of affairs and think “Do you know what? That environment is just not for me.” And to be honest, based on these examples (the ones that take over the Twittersphere), I couldn’t blame them one bit.
However, I don’t think these examples accurately reflect what life is really like as a woman in science. I personally think – as a woman – that being a scientist is a fantastic job and that the scientific community is wonderfully supportive. So I thought it would be nice, in this time of great angst about sexism in science, to list a few of the awesome aspects of being a woman in science.
Don’t let the bastards put you off, girls.
Some disclaimers: These views are based on my own experience in my own workplace. I am aware that the experiences of others may differ. I also acknowledge that others may have made some or all of these points before. That’s because they are true for many female scientists, which can only be a good thing.
- We have the freedom to think about the things that interest us the most. We decide what we want to discover. We get paid to do what we enjoy.
- We have incredibly flexible working hours and we are trusted with this flexibility because our institutions know it helps us do brilliant science.
- We get to discuss our ideas with some of the smartest, most creative people we’ve ever met. Often in the pub after an amazing conference in a country we’re visiting for the first time.
- We get to tell the whole world about all the amazing things we’ve found out and let them ask us new and exciting questions.
- We get to challenge misconceptions and break down stereotypes.
- We are in demand. Although women have traditionally had less chance of getting academic jobs, universities and research institutes are becoming extremely keen to even out their sex ratios (especially at the top). Like it or not, these days being a woman might even help you get the job.
- Despite the previous point, we’ve seen the data and we know the chances are slim for anyone pursuing an academic career. So as we climb each rung of the academic ladder, we can enjoy the immense satisfaction of knowing that we have beaten quite amazing odds to get there.
- There are loads of fantastic initiatives like Athena Swan that are working to raise the profile of women in science and facilitate their career development. Women in science are supported.
- Sexism happens in science. That’s awful. But it also happens everywhere else. When it happens in science, the scientific community shouts VERY LOUDLY about it (see http://labandfield.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/we-have-work-to-do for one of many great examples). Again, women in science are supported.
- We get to do science as a job. That’s awesome.