Nova: Researchers expose longstanding discrimination against women in science

Picture a Scientist: Researchers expose longstanding discrimination against women in science.

Women make up less than a quarter of STEM professionals in the United States, and numbers are even lower for women of color. But there is a growing group of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists, exposing longstanding discrimination, and leading the way in making science more inclusive. A biologist, a chemist, and a geologist lead viewers on a journey through their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from outright harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, scientific visionaries, including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists, provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all. (Premiered April 14, 2021)


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Wow! Half an hour into it - just painful. Why does anyone anywhere think hazing is okay. Bad enough when it is transitional as with being the newest team member. But when it is based on sex and goes unchallenged all through a woman’s career it is so mean that no one should ever laugh it off.

My wife’s uncle was a professor with a lot of authority in the biology department. A very nice guy in family settings and my wife Lia always appreciated how he’d take her medical questions seriously and explain things without talking down to her. But she was always appalled at how frank he was about not wanting women grad students. What was the point when they’d have a family and quit within five years? And he had a big hand in making those decisions.

It’s almost as though he and other men in positions of authority dissociate any responsibility for the families they and other men father. Pregnancy becomes annoyance women inflict on them rather than being revered and respected for taking on that extra burden. It’s really shameful.


Thank you for watching! It was extremely shocking, and probably extremely difficult for these women to to carry this trauma around for so many years before talking about it. The statistics they mention throughout show were pretty shocking as well. Scientific American has been trying to highlight some of these problems.

That is a step in the right direction.

My wife is about to take part in a discussion with two other older women artists with the moderator being a woman as well. She had three pages of topics and questions to prep for. My job was to remind her of themes I’d heard her speak on before. Naturally the topic of feminism came up.

In art as with science it is an issue. One way it manifests is that her area, textile arts, has become the domain of women and gay men for the most part. The advantage of that is women working that medium have been able to work more collaboratively, and basically just avoid an established male patriarchy. The down side is that the field is less respected. Seems like fields which have ever been predominantly a female occupation are always valued less and less lucrative. That effected my field, education, as well. Another question involved what they would like to see come of that struggle. In addition to equal visibility and valuation, I would hope that the feminine capacity for collaboration would thrive and push the dominant culture in that direction. Women winning in male ways would not be as good for the culture as challenging the predominance of male values of competition.

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You would think somebody from BioLogos would take interest in this. @Laura did you seen this presentation?

btw, one of the BioLogos Writers (Francisco Ayala), although not mentioned in this show, was guilty of sexual harassment.

I didn’t see it (I’m unfortunately out of the loop with PBS since we don’t seem to get the signal where we are) but thanks for sharing! I will have to check it out…

You can watch it online.

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Yeah, I’ll try to catch it sometime or read a transcript… I just mean I tend to not keep up on things like Nova because I’m not seeing commercials for it…

So anyway, the show featured a Black female scientist, if anybody is interested.
Raychelle Burks, Associate Professor of Chemistry
American University

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