Here at Belle Jar, we like to celebrate women. On International Women’s Day, we wrote about the inspiring women in our lives. We raised awareness of Ada Lovelace Day. And soon, we will be able to sartorially celebrate women in science.
Last week, an international scientific milestone was reached, when the Philae lander touched down on 67P/Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko after a ten-year journey through space aboard the Rosetta spacecraft. Project Scientist Dr Matt Taylor spoke to the media on behalf of the Eurpoean Space Agency about this astonishing achievement. Dr Taylor was called out for the shirt he wore, for which he apologised. For some more background to the #shirtgate scandal, you can find a comprehensive collection of links here. One good thing that resulted from Dr Taylor’s controversial clothing choice was the awareness it raised of the endemic sexism in science. And one awesome thing to emerge from the whole affair was initiated by the speedy tongue-in-cheek response on twitter from Elly Zupko:
After her tweet got retweeted thousands of times, Elly got stuck into making the shirt for real. She called for people to email and tweet her with nominations for scientists to go on the shirt. From the aforementioned Ada Lovelace to mathematician Yvonne Choquet-Bruhat, the list is now more than 100-strong. How many have you heard of? As I write, Elly is sourcing Creative Commons/Public Domain pictures of these women, so if you can help with that, please do!
Scientists love to wear their science on their T-shirts (and even their tattoos). But women in science are continually underrepresented in images of scientists. Images of women in science are important, to help counter stereotype threat and address that leaky pipeline that has been the subject of much discussion but remains a problem. Scientists pride themselves on drawing conclusions based on observable, empirical evidence. But that doesn’t mean that science operates free of unconscious bias which scientists have a responsibility to address.
So, to understand why it was that so many people spoke out about Dr Matt Taylor’s clothing choice, spend some time reading about why for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) it isn’t just a shirt.
And keep an eye out for that other shirt, being worn with pride by a scientist near you.
UPDATE: The ‘Women in Science’ Shirt is now available to support on Kickstarter – pledge $35 and it will be yours!
More resources on Women in Science: