I’m Dr Jess Wade, a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London’s Department of Physics. This week I’ve been in the news about the work I do to raise the visibility of women in science – in this case, through the 270+ Wikipedia pages on female scientists I’ve written since the beginning of 2018.

As it happens, I’m doing a Wikithon at this very moment!

We’re at Imperial’s neighbouring university, University College London, helping students, staff and the public learn how to edit wikipedia. I do this because I want Wikipedia to be more representative of the world of science. The majority of Wikipedia editors are men and, as a result, the majority of biographies on Wikipedia are about men (83 % to be precise).

Wikipedia is the most widely accessed encyclopedia in the world – and I want it to contain the biographies of everyone who has contributed to the story of science, not just the privileged few.

I’ll also be joined on this IAmA by some fellow Wikimedians:

A bit about my own research

I work in the Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London – making light emitting diodes out of carbon-based semiconductors. I can dissolve them in solvents to make semiconducting solutions that we can print onto plastics to make flexible electronic devices. I am really interested in how the individual molecules are arranged and spend a lot of my time studying them with spectroscopic techniques.

Proof:

Useful links:

I'll be back at 11:00 EST / 16:00 GMT to answer your questions!

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UPDATE 11:00 EST: And we're live! Now answering your questions.

Proof: r/https://twitter.com/imperialcollege/status/1022486807991267328

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UPDATE 13:15 EST: Hi everyone, we're going to sign off now. We would love to answer more, so will check back in when we can. A big thanks to r/IAmA for hosting this session (and debate!)

Comments: 1543 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

Egalitarianatheist352 karma

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[deleted]59 karma

Woah, heavy stuff now! I didn’t have much respect for that psychology article comparing women’s participation in science vs. ‘equality’ in the country for a few reasons. For everyone reading who didn’t catch it, here is a link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180214150132.htm

Societal stereotypes are very tough to compare and even harder to measure. The number of STEM graduates in a particular country is influenced by the subject choices people make, which is influenced by the inherent biases that creep through society. This bias isn’t necessarily something you’d think of when you evaluate “overall life satisfaction”. Someone could be very “happy” but still insisting their daughter wears pink and plays with dolls.

We can use the study to show that in countries without so much gender stereotyping (Romania), girls can, and do, succeed in subjects like computer science and engineering. If we otherwise add the confusing mess of gender stereotyping we push on very young children (http://lettoysbetoys.org.uk/) and make girls think that they can’t succeed in these subjects then they start to choose other things they are being more enthusiastically encouraged into.

The paper also uses the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as a means to evaluate school satisfaction, which we don’t take seriously in the UK. I’m a physicist, so I won’t touch on the social construct part of the question!

ImperialCollege30 karma

One more thing, as you seem to be getting quite angry I didn't reply to the part about Norway (apologies, there are heaps of questions). Just because a country scores well on the World Economic Forum's view of gender equality it doesn't mean it's a good place to be a woman. You can read this article about domestic bias in Nordic Countries: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/10/the-best-countries-for-gender-equality-may-also-have-a-domestic-violence-problem/?utm_term=.f217dc5676d4

Dentish339 karma

Why focus on gender rather than substantive contributions to your field?

Would it not be more productive to society to seek the best and brightest? Regardless of identity politics?

Since college admissions indicate women now outnumber men by a wide margin, don't you worry about the

profound negative effects your grotesque emphasis on gender will propagate?

What made you choose to raise the profile of women in science rather than, say, orphans or handicapped or mentally ill or children raised by a single parent or impoverished or struggling people who have NO profile in science?

Why not choose to raise the profile of a poor child raised by semi-literate parent(s) who overcomes hardship after hardship and becomes a scientist contributing to man's understanding of the world REGARDLESS of their sex?

Don't you find this emphasis on sex rather than substance to be self-serving in the extreme and ultimately counterproductive?

I wonder how much better off we would be if we tried to encourage bright inquisitive people wherever we find them. Having four bright sons and having participated closely in their educations, I can state unequivocally that there is overwhelming gender bias towards females at the expense of males. Your work, effort, trajectory and propaganda are profoundly retrograde to overall positive cultural evolution.

ImperialCollege150 karma

Why focus on gender rather than substantive contributions to your field?

Of course we recognise substantial contributions to our fields! We are just saying that for too long we’ve recognised only the contributions of a few, not everyone.

Would it not be more productive to society to seek the best and brightest? Regardless of identity politics?

Since college admissions indicate women now outnumber men by a wide margin, don't you worry about the

profound negative effects your grotesque emphasis on gender will propagate?

I would like to see a world where women and men participated equally - in all subjects as well as in college admissions. Whilst women may outnumber men in admissions to higher education, they don’t outnumber them in physics or engineering, and they certainly don’t in senior positions. I’d like everyone to feel they had access to college to study whatever they want - tell me what is “grotesque” about that?

What made you choose to raise the profile of women in science rather than, say, orphans or handicapped or mentally ill or children raised by a single parent or impoverished or struggling people who have NO profile in science?

I would love to have more time to support orphans, handicapped and the mentally ill. I am not an expert in these fields and wouldn’t want to assume I would know what is best for them, so when I have time off from my research job, I contribute to initiatives I understand a bit better. I also work with teachers and schools to make sure all children, whether they are impoverished or from a single parent, realise that they can become scientists. We run lots of activities at Imperial for the next generation of scientists (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/be-inspired/student-recruitment-and-outreach/schools-and-colleges/wohl-reach-out-lab/) and these are specifically targetted at young people who have ‘no profile in science’ and no ‘science capital’. If you have any suggestions about productive things we could all do to help the groups you’ve listed, I’d love to hear them!

Why not choose to raise the profile of a poor child raised by semi-literate parent(s) who overcomes hardship after hardship and becomes a scientist contributing to man's understanding of the world REGARDLESS of their sex?

I think this is quite a similar question to the one above. We are all making efforts to improve everyone’s access to science, through Imperial’s education program (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/be-inspired/student-recruitment-and-outreach/schools-and-colleges/wohl-reach-out-lab/) and the IOP’s Stimulating Physics Network (a national teacher network in the UK). The wikipedia work is totally separate to widening participation in education - we are using the encyclopedia to improve people’s awareness of established scientists and their contributions to their fields. They are both valuable. Again, if you have any other ideas about raising the profile of a “poor child raised by semi-literate parent(s) who overcomes hardship after hardship and becomes a scientist contributing to man's understanding of the world REGARDLESS of their sex”, just let me know.

Don't you find this emphasis on sex rather than substance to be self-serving in the extreme and ultimately counterproductive?

We’ve answered this a tonne of times (see above). Of course we’re focussing on substance. For a long time, substance has only been celebrated for people of a particular sex, and we’re trying to stop that from happening. I want to evaluate scientists on their science, not their gender.

I wonder how much better off we would be if we tried to encourage bright inquisitive people wherever we find them. Having four bright sons and having participated closely in their educations, I can state unequivocally that there is overwhelming gender bias towards females at the expense of males. Your work, effort, trajectory and propaganda are profoundly retrograde to overall positive cultural evolution.

It sounds like your bright sons have a great parent and are super lucky. I am sorry that they, and you, have had to experience an “overwhelming bias to girls”. Whilst recent initiatives have been strongly pushing “girls in STEM” I was unaware that this persisted in other areas of the curriculum. I am only a physicist - I can’t answer for other areas of education, but the IOP Improving Gender Balance Project demonstrated how differently teachers treat boys and girls. All of their efforts have been to make education more fair for everyone in the classroom: https://www.iop.org/education/teacher/support/girls_physics/resources/file_69811.pdf

patricksaurus81 karma

I did undergrad work in astronomy and physics. There are tons of pioneering women in astronomy and very few in physics (though Noether and Curie are criminally under appreciated). Now my work is towards the biological and geological side of things. When I teach a biology course, there are more women than men and their performance is better. Geology is getting there but still mostly men.

Why do you think there is such a difference between the fields, both historically and in the present?

ImperialCollege64 karma

Alice: Historically (particularly in Victorian Britain), fields like archaeology, botany and zoology were a little more socially acceptable for women to enter. This was because the subject of interest could be approached as a genteel hobby, like collecting flowers or stones and cataloguing of these items. Potentially the work of these women could still be undervalued but it was more possible to participate compared with equipment intensive science like chemistry etc.

Also, if you read the Haddow report 1926 (http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/hadow1926/) you will see that young women before that time were doing scientific experimentation in school and then were stopped, which obviously contributed to their inability to pursue certain fields in science but has also led to our perception today that they are less interested in these subjects.

Lia: I know some people work research within medical physics and their impression is that yes, there are a lot of women who study biology or medicine but they rarely stay within academia to reach the most senior positions. I can only quote anecdotal evidence but the general feeling is that due to the higher impact of biology papers, it becomes highly competitive, to the point where postdocs will want to be first author on papers rather than allow Ph.D students to take that position (who often do the grunt work!). Some professors can use this to create quite toxic environments where it’s junior researcher against junior researcher; this might not be compatible for women who have family responsibilities etc. Here’s some data about the gender pay gap from the Francis Crick Institute (formerly the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation) which is a biomedical research centre in London:
https://www.crick.ac.uk/about-us/gender-pay-gap/
To quote the Crick:
The main reason for our gender pay gap is that there are more men than women in senior, highly paid roles at the Crick. Women make up over 50% of the workforce but hold only 40% of posts in the upper salary quartile. Women make up 27% of our research group leaders, up from 21% in 2015.

StainedMugz68 karma

What scientific discoveries have been made by women that you believe the world needs to be more aware of?

ImperialCollege78 karma

Claire: There are so many incredible women that we could talk about for hours. I’m a crystallographer, so I would argue that the seminal work by Dorothy Hodgkin, Rosalind Franklin, Kathleen Lonsdale and Helen Megaw is essential to know about. This is where the variety of science that we are all doing comes into play, as we all have biases as to what the best scientific discoveries are :-D.

I’m going to pick (to no one’s surprise) Dame Prof. Kathleen Lonsdale. She did the critical experiment and interpreted the data to prove that benzene was flat. This was groundbreaking at the time.

Up to this point (which was over 100 years of hot debate including Faraday and Kekule), no one understood the chemical structure or its shape. There’s a longer article on her work by Prof. Mike Glazer (her PhD student):http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/373/2039/20140232

If you want something a bit shorter, I’ve also written a short article about her work: http://www.herstory.ie/news/2017/4/27/dame-kathleen-lonsdale-scientist-educator-activist

Jess: WOAH! Great question. I love Martha Whiteley, Imperial alumni and chemist during the First World War: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Annie_Whiteley. She had a trench on our South Kensington campus! She campaigned a lot for women in chemistry and ALSO INVENTED MUSTARD GAS. There’s more in this wonderful book, A Lab of One’s Own:

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/a-lab-of-ones-own-9780198794981, which is a summary of science during the suffragette movement.

I’m also really inspired by Gladys West, an African-American mathematician who worked on the early stages of GPS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladys_West. Roma Agrawal, another Imperial alum, is a structural engineer who built the top of the Shard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roma_Agrawal. She’s pretty awesome too. I think I could go on forever. Let’s catch up on Twitter?

Madeline_Albright6961 karma

If the work people do is good enough won't it earn them recognition regardless of what they look like? Who is preventing women from receiving the recognition they deserve?

ImperialCollege43 karma

Claire: That is what we would love to see. But unfortunately recognition has always been a difficult issue. We’ve touched on this in our answers to NormalCB1 above, but as an example, take a look at the story of Lisa Meitner (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lise_Meitner). She worked with Otto Frisch to understand that the fission process, which splits the atomic nucleus of uranium into two smaller nuclei, must be accompanied by an enormous release of energy.

She was omitted from the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944 as her longtime collaborator Otto Hahn received it in her stead. Her collaborators and fellow scientists were all outraged by this and she has had a flurry of post-humous awards. This is just one example of so many, but it highlights that we should not assume that good research will be recognised.

Jess: Of course, in an ideal world, if the work is great it will get recognised! But there is bias at heaps of stages [student-reviews of teaching (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047272716301591) peer-review of academic papers (http://blogs.nature.com/ofschemesandmemes/2017/12/21/are-you-aware-of-gender-bias-in-peer-review) and grant allocation (https://physicsworld.com/a/surely-youre-not-biased/)].

These impact the progression of underrepresented groups throughout their scientific careers, stopping them from getting tenure-track positions and promoted to professor. We can get around that with good mentors and support, but we’ve only just started making sure everyone has access to that. So whilst good science should win, it doesn’t always.

upvoter22258 karma

1) As you may know (or have figured out based on some users' comments), Reddit users are disproportionately male. In your opinion, why should men be concerned about raising the profile of women in science and other fields?

2) In this AMA's description, it is noted that "The majority of Wikipedia editors are men and, as a result, the majority of biographies on Wikipedia are about men (83 % to be precise)." Why do you believe that the editors' gender is responsible for this difference? Wouldn't historical gender roles (which aren't necessarily fair) contribute to such an imbalance of noteworthy individuals?

ImperialCollege26 karma

Claire: When women are able to participate in science and other fields, they have a unique perspective and can contribute in a very creative way. If we don’t support women in science and other fields, then we are automatically writing off 50% of the world’s population just because they are women. This seems like madness. I’d also suggest that you read Angela Saini’s book Inferior (http://www.angelasaini.co.uk/books) as there are lots of arguments and bad science thrown around that claim women are less intelligent but she has comprehensively pulled together lots of the great research unpicking this.

Alice: you're right that Wikipedia isn't the only encyclopaedia with a gender imbalance, and that part of the problem is that women are not written about so much elsewhere (and that's replicated in places like Wiki which depend on other citations as proof of notability). There's more to it than that though… Wikipedia actually has a page on its own gender bias that cities some scholarly research that may be of interest: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_bias_on_Wikipedia

NormalCB155 karma

What do you see as the most commonly encountered obstacle(s) in society and by your counterparts, male and female, that prevent an equal recognition of scientific accomplishments by women in science-based fields thusly impeding the current generation of young women from pursuing a career in the sciences?

Does this discrimination vary by ones country, ethnicity, scientific discipline, etc, or is this discrimination globally and entirely pervasive?

ImperialCollege61 karma

Claire: One of the big barriers here is recognition. Within scientific fields, invited talks, award lectures and invitations to be on peer review panels all add to the reputation of a scientist. This is how scientific careers can be made or broken, so if some parts of the scientific population are not getting this opportunities or are being discriminated against, then they will not be able to fulfill their maximum as a scientist.

Many learned societies have actively identified this is an issue and now report on diversity statistics for awards and grants, including the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics and UKRI, the latter of which actually funds over 7,000 UK researchers covering everything from arts through to computer science.

The fact these organisations are actively trying to address these issues tells you how seriously this is affecting careers and that, in complex ways, unconscious bias can be affecting a scientist’s or researcher’s chance at progressing in a field.

Jess: Discrimination sounds super toxic and sometimes obstacles in science occur due to much more subtle challenges. Sometimes people aren’t being intentionally cruel they just don’t have a diverse platform to choose from. We love the 500 Women Scientists, which lets you identify women experts in particular disciplines for media and speaking opportunities: https://500womenscientists.org/.

The Twitter account https://twitter.com/MinoritySTEM who tweet scientists from black and minority ethnic groups. Of course participation in science varies by discipline - largely due to societal stereotypes. I.e.: women care more about caring roles, so there are more women in medicine at the early stages. Women aren’t as encouraged into physics as boys, so there are more men there. In some countries they are much more focussed on innovation and applications than pure research, so they have far more engineers than they do physicists.

We just need to make sure that people have free choice in their career, rather than being influenced by society or teachers. Get me on twitter for more :-) @jesswade (https://twitter.com/jesswade)

Madauras55 karma

What do you think makes Psychology so different from other sciences in terms of gender ratios? Even the vast majority of my teachers and classmates in the more "Hard" leaning courses like neuropsychology or psychobiology were women.

Edit: confusing spelling

ImperialCollege76 karma

For a long time, society has been telling women they’re better at ‘caring’ roles. Even if they’re not trained psychologists, women academics are often responsible for any students who get ‘emotional’ in a department:

Psychology and psychiatry professionalised at a much later period than other sciences. Therefore the barriers to entry were not so firmly in place, for example lots of university courses were not created until after the second world war when attitudes to women were already changing. Alice got her whole PhD writing about psychiatry in the second world war and there were plenty of women doing it!

WeedRamen48 karma

If you had to choose one, what would you say is the number 1 challenge at the moment that limits women's involvement and profile in science?

ImperialCollege64 karma

Jess: I think it’s bias - unconscious or conscious - it holds women and underrepresented groups back from contributing to our understanding of the world. It can stop professors responding to emails from undergraduate students (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/24/study-finds-faculty-members-are-more-likely-respond-white-males-others) and stop women publsihing papers, getting promoted or getting access to grants (see above answer to Madeline_Albright69 ).

And when they do achieve, they are often singled-out as not being feminine or being too assertive. It’s a tricky road to navigate, but hopefully we’re getting better at it.

HedgehogFarts27 karma

Thanks for all your hard work! I think if we are going to get more females interested in science, more visible role models is a great place to start.

A lot of decisions about college and STEM majors happen in high school - around ages 16 - 18. It looks like you have done some partnerships with schools. What have you learned from those partnerships and how effective do you think they’ve been?

ImperialCollege21 karma

The most impressive one has been the Institute of Physics Improving Gender Balance project. The results of IGB indicate that whole-school interventions work best in remedying gender inequality in subject choice. To make a significant difference to students’ perceptions, work needs to be done across the whole school to challenge gender stereotypes.

Good practice in the science department with regards to taking girls on STEM trips and so on may be negated if gender lines are then enforced in other subjects, in break times, or in extracurricular activities. The main recommendations are below:

· Appoint a gender champion

For any issue to be taken seriously by a school, someone in the senior leadership team needs to be given responsibility for it, and for impressing the importance of it on the school.

· Train teachers

Teachers, like all of us, have unconscious biases, which can affect the experience of different groups in the classroom –what is said to students, feedback on their work, expectations of them and career suggestions.

Training can raise awareness of unconscious bias and its potential impact in the classroom, allowing teachers to reflect on their practice and adjust to ensure the best experience for all students. It can also help teachers deal with sexist and sexual comments or inappropriate behaviour.

· Use data and evidence

By comparing the progression in traditionally gendered subjects to the national average, schools can get an idea how their schools compare to the national average in terms of gender equality in subject choice. This can help identify areas for concern and provide incentives for action.

· Rethink science clubs

Science clubs are often quite boy-heavy, which can put interested girls off. Research projects such as [email protected] and Crest awards attract a better gender balance, as do science ambassador schemes – in which students are doing outreach with primary schools.

· Increase students’ awareness and engagement

Ask students to challenge their biases and the biases of others around them. Engage them in the issues and encourage them to think of ways to combat them.

You can find more out about their work from 2006 onward here: http://www.iop.org/education/teacher/support/girls_physics/

CreamThenJam26 karma

How do you feel about Jocelyn Bell Burnell not being included in the 1974 Nobel prize for physics, given that she was a research student?

ImperialCollege52 karma

Jess: Obviously not great! Jocelyn Bell Burnell has a fascinating story. I wrote about it in Physics World: https://physicsworld.com/a/look-happy-dear-youve-just-made-a-discovery/. She has been incredibly diplomatic about not being awarded the prize - she was after all, still a student, not the principal investigator, and only three people can be awarded the Nobel. She was so involved with the experiment - from the building of the telescope to the first detection of the blip in the radio signal - and her legacy will live on.

She has been very crucial in the efforts to support women in science too - realising that universities wouldn’t do much for diversity unless there was a prize for it, she established the UK’s Athena Swan Award which recognises a department’s commitment to advancing the careers of women in science. She has been President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Institute of Physics.

I have seen her talk a few times, and every time I am so impressed by her dedication to scientific research and the scientific community. So, she may not have won a Nobel, but she has had an incredibly influential career.

_CommanderKeen_21 karma

In a forum like Reddit people will commonly bring up the point (not a fact per se, but an observation) that woman in general simply don't seem interested in science. What are your thoughts on that? What barriers have you personally experienced? And maybe more difficult to answer: what incentive do young woman have NOT to be interested in science (by which I mean, what benefit is there to them to not choose science)?

ImperialCollege41 karma

Claire: I think it is incredibly disappointing that people think this is true. It is a catch-22 in a sense. Social cues are incredibly important in our lives, and if women only receive cues that say imply they shouldn’t be interested in science, then we shouldn’t be surprised that this becomes a reality.

I think that I’ve been very privileged in my opportunities, so I don’t feel like my barriers are that important here as I’ve actually had much fewer barriers compared to others. However, I have friends who have experienced sexual harassment, been passed over for promotions, been paid less, just because they are women. I’d like to point out that sexual harassment is unacceptable against any gender but the NAS report on this highlighted how prevalent it is for women (http://sites.nationalacademies.org/shstudy/index.htm).

As to incentives not to like science, well again we return to societal cues. We reinforce negative stereotypes that are pervasive throughout our media and our day to day lives that tell young women that they shouldn’t be interested in science, that they are not smart enough. A good example of this is some of the conversations around language in the ASPIRES and ASPIRES 2 reports (https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/departments/education/research/ASPIRES/ASPIRES-final-report-December-2013.pdf / r/https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-centres/departments/education-practice-and-society/aspires/)

McJumbos14 karma

do you believe tv shows and movies played a significant role in why women aren't better represented in science?

ImperialCollege35 karma

Claire: This is a really interesting area to discuss. If you think about the women scientists that spring to mind from tv shows and movies, many of them are based on a stereotypical awkward personality. It essentially creates the message that you can only be a scientist if you are that type of person, and it isn’t just an issue for woman! I think things are going to change in a really interesting way now we have characters like Shuri in Black Panther. It is so rare to see women scientists who are so positive and enthusiastic about what they do in a way that is beyond the small definition of a scientist that is presented on tv.

Lia: My inspiration was Dr. Dana Scully from the X-files!!!! I loved that show, it was awesome even though it wasn’t really ‘science’ but Dana was so important to add in logical scientific reasoning. She knew how to rock a gun, perform surgery and she commanded respect, even within a highly male environment like the FBI.

[deleted]7 karma

[deleted]

ImperialCollege21 karma

Alice: Wikipedia is a tertiary source, which means that (like any other encyclopedia) it’s a place where people begin to learn about a topic and where they can find their way to credible sources (which should be in the references of any good Wikipedia page). Wikipedians will tell you that you should always continue your research: read the sources that are referenced in a Wikipedia page, and use the sources that you find there in your own research.

And as much as sometimes we might like like to pretend we’re “above” Wikipedia, a recent study indicates that Wikipedia influences the course of science <r/https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3039505\>

People do research on what they can see and be inspired by. Wikipedia the 5th most-viewed website in the world so it’s a fantastic starting point for people to use as a springboard to other information, and a great way to facilitate research by collecting some useful sources together in one place along with an introductory summary.

Be honest - we all check Wikipedia all the time to get started, so let’s make it the best we can.

hooklineandsinkers7 karma

Are you familiar with the Claudia Goldin's research at Harvard? What do you think about her findings?

ImperialCollege7 karma

I am not familiar, but I will look her up now! Thanks so much for the connection.

El_Bard0-9 karma

Thank your for the work that you're doing. Why do you think males react so poorly to these types of efforts? Do you think that more male support would make these types of efforts more effective?

scottevil11040 karma

Why do you think males react so poorly to these types of efforts?

Being a male scientist, I can tell you it's because it doesn't feel very good to:

a) Have people applaud when you get replaced on a panel because of your gender

b) Put a ton of work into something, only to have the entire follow-up discussion focused on your gender instead of anything you just talked about

ImperialCollege2 karma

Jess: I am really sorry this has happened to you. I have never known someone be replaced on a panel, nor have I seen a man have to discuss their gender after "a ton of work". Every woman in physics I know has to discuss their gender endlessly.

ImperialCollege16 karma

Jess: In general - aside from a few online trolls (who, tbh, could be men or women!) - men have been very supportive. I guess everyone is quite comfortable with the status quo and when we start to disrupt it, people get worried. I have had heaps of support from men at Imperial (especially Dr Ben Britton, Prof Stephen Curry and Prof Chris Jackson) at every stage of my career and also in all of my efforts to improve representation of women in science.

The Improving Gender Balance project from the Institute of Physics which looks to increase girls’ participation in school physics is led by a man (Charles Tracy, head of education at the IOP). One example I think is particularly wonderful is Will Pomerantz, VP of Special Projects at Virgin Orbit, set up a mentoring/ internship scheme for women in aerospace: http://www.brookeowensfellowship.org/.

I think that having the support of people in power, who are usually men, is incredibly important for the advancement of all underrepresented groups. Obviously women in science initiatives will get nowhere if it is just a room of women talking to women about being women. Men can either act as mentors, sponsors or advocates. The Women’s Engineering Society has a “men as allies” award for men who have been particularly supportive of women: https://www.wes.org.uk/content/men-allies-award. The British Council agree with us: https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/can-male-academics-do-more-support-womens-success.