Friday, September 21, 2007

Women in Science

There has been a big to-do lately about the fact that The Scientist asked seven prominent science bloggers to recommend their favorite life science blogs, and the seven prominent science bloggers were all men. Ever-fearless Zuska took it head-on, and explained why this is more than just a simple slight. PZ Myers of Pharyngula, who was one of the seven male bloggers, understood what Zuska was talking about and lamented the anonymity of women's contributions to science in the past, and the blind spot that society has even today when it comes to women in science.

One of Zuska's commenters poignantly said, "The many little instances of gender bias don't just add up; they compound (like the interest on my mortgage). Each little disadvantage leaves us slightly less able to deal with the next one."

I deplore the deterrants that my sisters in science endure in order to do what they love. I am saddened by the societal dysfunction that discourages many until only the most persistent few remain. It feels lonely at work.

My male colleagues are very nice, don't get me wrong. They are lovely people and I have never experienced any inappropriate interactions with any of them. But I can see how different I am, how much of an anomaly. They walk on eggshells when I'm around.

I try to combat this by becoming friends, by going to lunch with them, by telling lively and entertaining stories, and by appearing just as competent and confident as everyone else. I want them to understand that the biggest difference between us is that I have a big nasty scar on my left elbow and they don't.

And I combat my loneliness by befriending the secretaries. It's good to have somebody to talk to, plus it's strategic to befriend the people who make things work! But it would be nice to have a female friend with whom I could discuss the more technical details of my work, too. There are a couple of other women in my new group, so I'm hoping I can get to know them better.

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