Feminist Friday with… Jess Wade

As a part of my Feminist Friday series, I’ve been asking lovely bloggers and writers to write about Feminism and what it means to them. Today, the wonderful Jess from makingphysicsfun speaks about Inferior by Angela Saini, women and science. So, over to Jess. 

Did you, like me, read the Google memo this summer and role your eyes? Or perhaps look up the new Nikon D850, and be confronted with an ad campaign that consisted of a wall of 28 men. Maybe you picked up the Time’s Education Supplement (Sept 2017) to read boys were “better at physics” because they pee in urinals? Or waited for the announcement of the 2017 House of Commons Science & Tech Select Committee with naïve optimism, thinking it might continue the women-dominated glory 2015 – 17, to find out it was (you guessed it!) … all men. Every single time I get tired of talking about the need for more women in science – well, physics and engineering specifically – a new scandal makes part of me think I have to try again. But the rest of me is thinking – maybe they are right? Maybe women really are crap at photography. Maybe I am worse at physics than the boys in my group because of how I go to the toilet? Maybe women are bad at technology because we don’t have enough testosterone? I don’t say this out loud much, I wouldn’t want to let the side down!… but these miserable thoughts echo around my head every time I have to stand on stage.

And then, I was asked by Physics World to review a copy of Inferior by Angela Saini. Angela Saini is an Oxford-trained engineer who has had a phenomenal career in popular science writing and journalism. In 2009 she was named the European Science Journalist of the Year by the Euroscience Foundation and three years later won the Association of British Science Writers’ award for best news story. That year she became Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2015 she won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Kavli Science Journalism gold award for a BBC documentary into bogus universities.

When Saini was investigating the science of the menopause for a Guardian article, she discovered that there is very little scientific literature explaining the biological mechanisms that caused it. She realised that everyone takes it for granted that research will be fair and unbiased; that experiments will be ethical and that the results will be reproducible. But what if the people who wrote the rules of science were biased themselves? Saini’s ground-breaking second book, “Inferior”, uncovers how science has gotten plenty of women wrong, often due to the biases of the people and processes involved in research. An advocate for equality and honesty within scientific discourse, Inferior does not set out to prove that men are sexist scientists- it highlights stories where assumptions, poorly designed experiments and hasty press releases have failed 51 % of the population. She is a phenomenal journalist determinedly persistent in untangling the evidence from both sides to present pure fact – her bibliography is 29 pages long with 306 distinct articles and books covering the gamut of evolutionary psychology to anthropology. Inferior has it all: from understanding bluebirds to babies, shouting at dodgy f-MRI studies and picking apart the lazy stereotypes that prevent women entering science and technology careers. Reading Inferior has given me my voice back… and I am going to short very loudly.

You can catch Angela Saini on her UK university tour or at a local event. You can buy Inferior here.

Angela has written a comprehensive response to the now infamous Google memo, which you can read here.

 

Bio: Jess is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Physics and Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London, creating chiral molecular structures as the active layer for electronic devices. Jess has been involved in projects to support gender inclusion in science, as well as encouraging more young people to study science and engineering. She won the Institute of Physics (IOP) Early Career Communicator Prize (2015), “I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!” (2015), the IOP Jocelyn Bell Burnell Award (2016), the IOM3’s ‘Robert Perrin Award’ (2017) and the Imperial College Dame Julia Higgins Certificate (2017). She sits on the committees of the IOP’s Women in Physics Group, Communicators Group and London & South East Branch. She is also on the council of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) Young Women’s Board.

If you’d like to write for Feminist Friday please get in contact, I’d love to hear from you! Email chloefmetzger@gmail.com. 

Feminist Friday: Support a woman in STEM!

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To me, women supporting women is a huge part of feminism and today I’m enlisting your help. I met Chloe while we were both students at Kingston as a friend of a friend. She’s done amazingly well and now she’s in a competition to win a £5000 scholarship towards her Master’s degree. So, let’s get to know Chloe.

What is it that you study? 

Undergrad: Forensic Science

Masters: Will be doing Bioarchaeological and Forensic Anthropology

What do you love about studying?

I have found a subject that interests me and I truly enjoy learning about. I love studying it and finding more out about the subject because I am passionate about it and would like continue studying to specialise and hopefully work in the area of science that I love so much.

Did you always know you wanted to go into Forensic Science?

Forensic Science was definitely not something I always thought about. After finishing my GCSE’s I was actually a bit lost with what I wanted to do. I was stuck between going into Art or Science, but at the time was never really told enough about careers in science to really want to do anything. After a year of mixed AS levels, I found my college offered the Forensic Science BTEC. It sounded so interesting to me and I was still so unsure of what I wanted to do that I just decided to go for it. Since then I never looked back and have wanted to continue studying it after all that time.

Do you think we can do more to help get women into STEM?

As I said before, when I was in school trying to decide what to do as a career, I don’t feel I was ever really told about the different options and amount of jobs in STEM. Therefore the subjects didn’t really interest me because I didn’t know where they could take me. It was pretty much by accident that I ended up in a science subject. I think women need to be shown early on what they could do and the jobs out there in STEM. We also need to lose the idea that men do better than women in these areas and stop women feeling like computer sciences or engineering are men’s jobs. So I guess awareness is the main thing, to show more women there’s plenty of room for them in these fields. As for Forensic Science, I am happy to say, at least from my experience, there are plenty of women in this area, and at university level I have been encouraged by all my lecturers, both men and women, to go further with my studies.

So, how can you help? All you need to do is click here, click vote and that’s that!

Thanks so much for reading and don’t forget I’m looking for guest bloggers to write about what feminism means to them! To put yourself forward email me at chloefmetzger@gmail.com!

Why Professor Stephen Hawking has become one of my heroes

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I’ll start this by saying that I’m absolutely hopeless at science, the only part of it I was good at was Biology, not Physics. With the release of The Theory of Everything, I took to the cinema with my friend Amy, intrigued by the story of Stephen and his Wife. I left with more than just a love for a film, but a new person to admire grately. I’d known that Stephen Hawking was one of the greatest minds on the planet for a long time, who didn’t? That said, as someone who was absolutely terrible at physics at school I never took a deep interest, until the film came out.

I watched this film and fell in love with Stephen’s determination and intelligence. I also marvelled at his then wife, Jane, who in her own right is incredibly intelligent. I watched the two of them and something awoke within me. Although not on the same level, I’ve battled with my own medical issues which time and time again have made people tell me that things I wanted weren’t possible. I read as much as I could about Stephen’s life and ambitions and used it as fuel to add to my own academic ambitions.

I’ve found myself getting angry at my body for not doing what it should and stressing out about the wheelchair, tonight I had a change of heart. I’ve spent all day either asleep or in bed with an hour here or there to eat. I ended up watching the BBC’s Dara ÓBirain meets Stephen Hawking and it made me think again, not just in terms of academics. Stephen’s had a whole life in a wheelchair, his movement and speech taken away from him and he still cracks jokes, smiles and it’s never taken away from his intelligence. I look at this as inspiration and it keeps me going while I have to use my own wheelchair.

Professor Stephen Hawking is perhaps one of the most intelligent men in the world, but there is more than that he also possibly the most persistent. He didn’t simply take his diagnoses and accept it and because of that he’s still here today. So as the above quote says, I’ll adapt to the changes my back brace/ wheelchair bring and I won’t give up.

Image from Pinterest