Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

In the news - Viewpoint: Women must fight sexism in science

ScienceGrrl's Dr Anna Zecharia provides a thorough and balanced response to the ongoing Tim Hunt situation in today's BBC News Viewpoint. In it, she emphasises that while the immediate display of disgust from many quarters shows such views are no longer widely acceptable, there is a risk of losing the momentum in the longer term. Until people understand the true nature and scale of the problem, and it becomes acceptable to discuss and challenge these problems at all levels, the UK will not get past the ~20% female participation levels in and outside science.

So should we just ignore an old-fashioned old man? My answer is a resounding "No". We don't need to demonise Sir Tim Hunt but if we shrug off his views as a generational quirk we are not looking closely enough and we fail to acknowledge how deeply these attitudes are embedded in our workplaces and how they are still holding women back.
Yes, when he was born women had barely won the right to vote and, yes, thankfully a lot has changed since then. But we are still grappling with a world where gender roles are blurring and these are important conversations.
Only 13% of jobs in the science and engineering sector are held by women. This is either because they are not "getting in" - as is the case with subjects like physics or careers in engineering.
Or it's because they are not "getting on". Even in areas like the life sciences, where entry and early career stages see roughly equal numbers of men and women, the so-called leaky pipeline kicks in. On average, roughly 17% of professors in the sciences are female.
By not speaking up we risk slowing progress further. Children as young as seven (and possibly younger) hold ideas about which careers are for men and which are for women.

Read more here.

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