In light of recent widely covered events (and entertaining reactions on Twitter), Nature published an editorial yesterday titled, simply, "Sexism has no place in science." It was published as a "reminder that equality in science is a battle still far from won," and it outlines the problems of sexism and gender basis and some of the ways they can be tackled. I thought it was worth highlighting a few of their ideas here:
- Recognize and address unconscious bias. Graduate students given grants by the US National Institutes of Health are required to undergo ethics training. Gender-bias training for scientists, for example, would be a powerful way to help turn the tide.
- Encourage universities and research institutions to extend the deadlines for tenure or project completion for scientists (women and men) who take parental leave, and do not penalize these researchers by excluding them from annual salary rises. Many workplaces are happy to consider and agree to such extension requests when they are made. The policy should simply be adopted across the board.
- Events organizers and others must invite female scientists to lecture, review, talk and write articles. And if the woman asked says no — for whatever reason — then ask others. This is about more than mere visibility. It can boost female participation too. Anecdotal reports suggest that women are more likely to ask questions in sessions chaired by women. After acknowledging our own bias towards male contributors, Nature, for example, is engaged in a continued effort to commission more women in our pages.
- Do not use vocabulary and imagery that support one gender more than another. Words matter. It is not ‘political-correctness-gone-mad’ to avoid defaulting to the pronouns ‘him’ and ‘he’, or to ensure that photographs and illustrations feature women.
The piece ends on a hopeful note - "The lot of the female scientist in most developed countries is better than it was a few decades ago" - but reminds readers "that it is essential that all involved strive for better." Hear, hear!
Previously: What's holding women in the sciences back?, She's a Barbie girl, living in a Barbie world (that discourages careers in science), Molly Carnes: Gender bias persists in academia and Pioneers in science
Photo by World Bank Photo Collection