Archive for the ‘Women in science’ Category

Science and culture – a symbiotic organism

April 21, 2013
Martian canals

Canals on Mars?

My job is all about ‘selling’ science – making it sound exciting, interesting and inspiring. Often this isn’t hard, because a lot of science is (I think) self-evidently amazing. The raw material doesn’t usually need a lot of polishing.

But writing about the process of science is harder. It involves a lot words like ‘trying’, ‘hoping’, ‘investigating’, ‘if’ and ‘but’. It sounds alarmingly human and error-prone, not at all like the shining quest for truth that science is ‘meant’ to be. (more…)


Science doesn’t need lipstick

June 22, 2012

Lipstick: not necessary for science (image by Riley)

Twitter nerds were finding it hard to control their outrage today over a bizarre video produced by the EU Commission for a campaign that’s aiming to encourage girls to study science. The video for ‘Science: it’s a girl thing’ (eww) has now been removed from YouTube and the campaign’s Facebook page and main website, after the amazingly negative response – but you can still see it here.

Obviously I’m not part of this campaign’s target audience (I can’t wear shoes that high, for starters). But would girls in school actually ever find this type of video encouraging? I really hope whoever put this together has done their homework and knows their audience – but to me it looks like something out of a timewarp, conceived by people who are out of touch with women, girls, science and scientists. (more…)

Ada Lovelace Day – hooray for women in science

October 7, 2011
Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace: not just a pretty face

Last week I happened to pass a room in the building where I work, in which a meeting of world-class scientists was taking place. A quick glance through the glass wall revealed a disturbing gender imbalance – there were no women in the room at all.

I often read about how there aren’t enough women in science, and part of this is a generational thing. Most of the men in that room were in their 50s, and 35 years ago when they were choosing their careers it wasn’t very common for women to go into science. But nowadays we hope for better – young women should feel just as able to become scientists as their male fellow students.

So it’s great that Ada Lovelace Day is encouraging women in science to take a moment to think about the ladies who inspire them (Ada not only had a brilliant name, she was also a trailblazing 19th century female computer programmer). They say everyone remembers a good teacher, and two of the women who taught me science at school have really stuck in my mind.


Women in science: invisible?

August 26, 2010

Mad scientists - they're always men

If you’re asked to ‘picture a scientist’, you’ll probably see someone a bit like Albert Einstein, wearing a lab-coat with crazy hair. A perfect example is Doc Brown from Back to the Future – he’s a bit mad, a bit old, and he’s a man.

This week the Royal Society has reported that 88% of 18-24 year-olds could not name a female scientist. I hope 100% of the women (and men!) were embarrassed by that (Rosalind Franklin, anyone?). But why is our image of ‘a scientist’ so old-fashioned? (more…)