On BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science programme on the 18th June, Adam Rutherford was joined by 5 female researchers (each in different disciplines, and at different stages in their careers) to discuss sexism in science. In an episode only lasting 30 minutes they discussed:
- Role Models – their importance and the need for more
- The culture in labs – does it need to change? Does this hamper women getting grants?
- Covert and overt sexism
- Conscious and unconscious bias
- What are the barriers to women reaching Professorial level?
- The need for institutional culture change
- The leaky pipe – ‘this is the process whereby women leave science or get pushed out, or simply get ground down by covert or sometimes overt sexism’
- In some disciplines (e.g. Psychology) the number of female undergraduates exceeds that of male students, but at Professorial level as in Engineering, Maths etc this pattern is reversed
Dr Sally Marlow (Post-Doctoral Researcher in the Addictions Department at King’s College London) highlighted some important and also difficult questions – ‘there is lots of campaigning for women in science, which is great, but not much advice for how to challenge it when called ‘girl’ or ‘young lady’, or even ‘missy.’ How do you deal with that if you are in your 20’s, when you are in a research team, and want to stay there, and ultimately get a long term career? How do you challenge these statements unless you have a whole bunch of journalists in the room?’
If you have 30 minutes to spare this thought provoking programme is well worth listening to. What do you think about Sally’s questions? Have you ever challenged comments such as these? What are your experiences? Does laboratory culture need to change?