This post I want to try something a little bit different. I want to talk about the elephant in the room that I’ve been encountering for a while now, that elephant being gender, in particular I want to talk about it in science and craft.
As most of you have gathered by now, I am a scientist. I am also a woman. An article published in the times earlier this year highlights the gender gap in the field, particularly at higher levels.
The level I am at currently is pretty equal (PhD level). This is reflected in my lab, which is full of very bright people of both sexes. It’s a fantastic working environment and I have never encountered any sexism what so ever. My boss and my boss’s boss are to my knowledge pro-equality. Frankly, getting a position in this lab is never based on gender but ability.
I admit that I have my reservations about how I will fair later on in my career, particularly when it comes to looking for post-doctoral positions and wanting to start a family. I do honestly feel that labs may not be comfortable hiring me because I may need maternity leave or because I may want children. In fact, even writing that here feels like a risk. I hate to think that women scientists are seen as ticking time-bombs of maternity leave and child –rearing. I would hope to balance both a succesful career and family life like many of my mentors have before me. That though is a bridge I will just have to cross if and when I come to it.
Of course I know that I will probably encounter but women don’t pull the same hours (in my lab that’s not true, we certainly do), that when there are children a female scientist will always prioritise her children. I would hope that a male scientist, who wants to be a father, would have the sense to prioritise his children as well. That women aren’t made out for how cut throat and ruthless it can be. Again, not true, I certainly wouldn’t have gotten this far if I couldn’t give and take harsh criticism and I am no exception. When I hear these lines I get frustrated because to me they sound like excuses not to have faith in women in the field (alienating half the population in one foul swoop). Women are not delicate little wall-flowers, no more than men aren’t brutes.
I am encountering a lot of career based sexism from outside of my field. Non-scientists can be completely taken aback by the fact that I am a woman in research. Public perception seems to be that the vast majority of scientists are a male, a trend which is valid for higher levels of the field but certainly not where I am currently. This is something that needs to be addressed. In terms of scientific ability it is my belief that quite frankly gender is irrelevant. I have never seen anyone of either sex use gender specific parts to carry out science therefore I don’t see why they matter. The age old stereo-type of all science been carried out by men needs to be actively challenged. A female scientist should not be seen as an odd or unusual being.
It’s starting earlier as well, with scientific toy marketing becoming more gender-specific. Since when has making a giant foaming volcano been specifically a boy thing? I happen to love that experiment, along with the screaming jelly baby. Also why is soap making seen as girly…that’s ridiculous, last time I checked boys had to wash too. (Also my partner made soap and bath bombs as Christmas presents for people this year). We need to stop accepting this genderising of the field to the public. Both sexes need to be encouraged to participate actively in science because both sexes have lots to offer.
I would like to see a future where it will be equal between men and women in science. A future where I don’t get raised eyebrows when I say that I am a scientist. We should be encouraging our children to do science because they enjoy it, gender shouldn’t mean a damn thing. All scientists should be looking for equality in the field because it is only fair that we are all treated the same, regardless of sex. It’s too important an issue not to actively take part.
In crafting I have occasionally encountered the opposite , where it is a given that I would knit, crochet or make things, my partner gets odd looks if he says that he does the same. It’s seen as a normal activity for a woman but somehow bizarre for a man. This is wrong, an activity shouldn’t be genderised. These activities engage our minds. They activate synapses that keep the brain healthy, something that is important for men and women. I don’t think that it’s right that half the population should be alienated or made to feel lesser for taking part. I’m proud of my partner for trying these things. He’s stitched me a beautiful chinchilla as a gift, he has knitted bits and bobs, he has made a few teddies. All of this added to his repertoire of skills.
From my experience crafting has improved my co-ordination and my patience. It’s something I would like to see more actively encouraged with younger people and particularly children. I would like to see more boys involved if I’m honest and I would like for them to be able to do so without judgement. The only way that that will happen though is if we actively denounce the stereo-types surrounding crafting. It is not a girly past-time, it is just a past-time.
I don’t know why more men aren’t involved. I partially believe it’s because these activities are seen as been the domain of women, in the same way that science is the domain of men. Well here are some example’s to contradict both.
Firstly, a favourite, the cross-stitching POW in WWII:
A list of male crocheters, who produce fantastically beautiful pieces
The guardians list of 100 inspiring women in science:
And last but no means least the ambitious women blog, its new, it’s shiny and it’s exactly what it says on the tin: