An editorial in this week’s Nature magazine calls for its own editors to improve the way they reflect the contribution of women to science. The editorial is responding to research highlighting the disproportionately small number of women featured in some sections of the magazine, despite the fact that around half of the editors at Nature are in fact women.
This might not be surprising in the light of recent research, which we wrote about here on the Naturejobs blog showing that even women seem to have an unconscious bias when assessing the competencies of men and women, naturally giving the men more credit, even when the evidence of their skills is identical.
Aside from these unconscious biases, the editorial also proposes other reasons to explain why the voice of women scientists in the media may be harder to spot. Of course, women are underrepresented in some disciplines, but it also suggests women may be more reluctant to come forward:
“One can speculate that there also may be a tendency for women to be less willing than men to push themselves forward, which may lead to editors being less aware of them”
Why might that be? And what is to be done about it?
This topic was recently discussed at the SpotOn London conference, in the session: Women in science – Improving visibility of female scientists online and offline.
The session was chaired by Nathalie Pettorelli and Seirian Sumner and on the panel was blogger and self proclaimed university gender equality champion Athene Donald, Judith Willetts of the British Society for Immunology, and Guardian science correspondent Alok Jha.
Athene Doland has since written a comprehensive blog post on the topic which also details the topics that were discussed:
- Are there risks in openly identifying yourself as female?
- How can social media help raise your profile?
- What are the wider benefits for your career?
- How do you begin?
- What is the purpose of blogging?
The idea that women are reluctant to put themselves forward was voiced by Alok Jha in reference to the Guardian’s own network of science blogs, which sorely lacks female voices. He said that whereas men jump at the chance to blog, women have been reluctant to come forward. In the future though, they may work more closely with their bloggers, to help women overcome their concerns about airing their ideas online.
But why is it that women feel so reluctant when men do not? Is it something inherently ‘female?’ or is it just that women are more likely to get a hard time? Many in the audience said they were put-off by the reaction to blogger Rebecca Watson and feared the negative responses from trolls.
If you are thinking about blogging, but aren’t sure if it’s a good idea or where to start, here are our top five tips and some useful links to get you thinking.
1. Think of it as online mentoring, says Athene Donald, who was inspired by another female science blogger, FemaleScienceprofessor.
2. If you’re thinking of starting a blog, check out our social media tips for scientists, which will give you advice on how to start, and potential pitfalls.
3. If you think you are too busy to blog, remember that having an online presence need not take up all that much of your time.
4. If you are reluctant to ‘self promote’ consider why that is. If society sends messages to young women that they shouldn’t be self promoting, here’s your chance to change that rhetoric. And besides, if you’re writing about your work, and people are interested in it, then you’re promoting your science, not your ‘self’.
5. You don’t need to go it alone. Why not join up with a group of colleagues or like minded women or men, and set up a blog together? Or else, start by contributing guest posts on established blogs, like Naturejobs, where we are happy to host relevant guest posts from our readers about their experiences in their science careers. So get in touch with your ideas, and start blogging!