Monthly Archives: April 2016

Lady Science!

There are a lot of things that I can’t believe are still things in the 21st century. The KKK. Homophobia. Tab cola. Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the gender gap, another inexplicable thing that’s still a thing. You know the one—it’s that thing where 50% of the population are so poorly represented that they qualify as a minority. I’ve been thinking about the gender gap in the sciences in particular.

The fact is, women may have long since won the rights to vote, to have careers, and to wear stylish yet functional bedazzled pants, but men still hold 70% of all careers in science and engineering. White men alone hold the majority of these positions, but men of every demographic outnumber women of the same category. All women of color combined barely add up to a tenth of the total professional scientific population.

Graph

In my novels, I write about a young woman living a century ago with a background in science. While writing, I constantly need to remind myself that it wasn’t the norm. It comes far too naturally to me to envision scientifically-minded women. I’ve learned plenty about Ada Lovelace and Florence Nightingale and Irene Curie, but more than that, my own grandmother, Mary Campbell, practically wrote the book on Medical Mycology. In fact… she DID write the book, and if you studied medical mycology at university, chances are it was on your required reading list. Incidentally, if you studied Medical Mycology at university, you are probably also doing more important things with your life than writing novels that feature a magical detective. Good for you.

MedMycMary

My family is full of female professors, nurses, veterinarians, computer analysts, and research scientists; when I was growing up, I couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a smart woman. I know. I tried. My sisters tattled and I got grounded for it. It continues to shock me, therefore, that the image of a woman as an intelligent professional is a concept that needs normalizing.

The trouble is ingrained in our culture. Women are encouraged to be supporters while men are pushed to be competitive. If that’s not blatant enough, loads of brilliant successful women have been actively cheated out of their notoriety by male colleagues.

3 Women Scientists Whose Discoveries Were Credited to Men

6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism

8 Inventions by Women that Dudes got Credit For

ScienceLady.jpg

“Who cares?” one might argue. “Those men probably stole credit from other men, too, that’s just the cutthroat nature of the field.” But when there are so few women in the field to begin with, each overlooked achievement represents a greater loss.

The problem with the erasure of women is that as a result, countless women just don’t get to see a future for themselves in the sciences in the same ways men do, and that matters. With good role models, possibilities blossom, and limitations drop away. Without any, invisible walls grow and self-doubt takes hold.

A few years back, my sister followed in the footsteps of Medical Mycology Mary and co-authored a book called THE ULTIMATE GIRLS’ GUIDE TO SCIENCE.

Girls Guide Science

Her role models mattered to her, and in turn she has became that role model through books and camps that she helps run for kids. Her latest project is the culmination of years of research that is both practical and awesome and involves fire… and also happens to be literally rocket science. Her Kickstarter for the ROCKET MASS HEATER GUIDE has just a few days left if you want to support an awesome woman in science RIGHT NOW, by the way, although she has already doubled her goal because the concept is just so damn cool!

Erica

Women are a part of the scientific community. They just are. Awesome though their accomplishments might be, the fact that they exist should be the most boring thing in the world. Sadly, it’s STILL an anomaly in the 21st century for a woman to be seen as a scientist. I don’t want writers of historical fiction a hundred years from now to look back at 2016 and find themselves astonished at how unusual it was for women in our time to be recognized for their contributions.

So, let’s share a little recognition right now—who are your favorite female faces in the field of science and engineering?

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I Know What He Wants.

Okay. So, we watched STAR WARS: The Force Awakens before bed.

Yes, the Chewbacca and BB-8 plushies are adorable, but focus! This post isn’t about that!

Last night, my ten-year-old sat bolt upright from a dead sleep. “I KNOW WHAT HE WANTS!” He yelled, eyes wide, panting.

“What?!” I said. “Who?”

“I know,” he repeated more quietly, but with fervor, “what he wants.”

“Are you still asleep?” I asked. “What WHO wants?”

His eyes, still wild but already closing under heavy lids, finally found me in the chair across from his bed. “Luke Skywalker.”

He was asleep again before I thought to follow up with the next obvious question. It ate away at me for several long minutes as he began breathing evenly again. I could not imagine that any prophet had ever had more conviction in his voice than my son had just demonstrated in his Star Wars fueled dream-revelation. I needed to know. What DID Luke Skywalker want? I seriously considered waking him up.

I was about to leave when he woke again with a cough. I hurried over to his bed.

“You awake?” I said. “I have a very important question.”

“Hm?” His eyes were mostly open.

“What,” I said earnestly “does Luke Skywalker want?”

“Oh,” he mumbled. “Um… Peace.”

* * *

Okay, so I understand that perhaps I was stupid tired, and I had just watched Force Awakens not an hour before, but THAT FELT LIKE SOME PROFOUND SH**.

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