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Here's a fun challenge. Read the comments on an article about a successful woman in history. See how long it takes to get to a sentiment along the lines of "See now, she just did what she wanted and broke through without having to march down the street wearing a vagina hat, just worked hard and pulled herself up by the bootstraps and proved herself, what's wrong with women these days just wanting it handed to them. If a woman wants to be a doctor/pilot/scientist she can DO IT this is proof."

That is one way to look at it. I see it differently... the one successful woman is proof that women have something to give to the field. Then I look at the field and see that the numbers are still very skewed, and think this field is lacking. It's picking its talent from half the brains available to the world. Isn't that a problem FOR engineering/science/medicine?

In the stories about these women, there are little anecdotes of "there was sexist bullshit, but she persevered!" Again, some people think perseverance is proof that the sexism doesn't matter. I'd rather ask why there is sexism.

For every woman who makes it through in a sexist field, I know that...

1) Another woman could have been a great contributor to the field but never realized it was a remote possibility because it was just never in her head, so she didn't try.

2) Another woman saw what was going on, said "No I'm not dealing with the pressure of being only girl in the room" and left.

3) Another woman tried and had to deal with even WORSE experiences than the successful woman, and left.

4) Another woman was lacking some other small advantage that the successful woman had... maybe the successful woman was able to persevere because of some financial backing, race privilege, smart parents, good looks, in other words something that men could lack and still make it. But for a woman to make it she needed every puzzle piece available before she could start.

5) Even the successful woman had days when she could have achieved more, but she was snubbed/not listened to/just tired. We didn't even get the best of her.

Bottom line: as humans, we all work better when we're part of the family, not an oddity that people treat with skepticism. If you want science to benefit from all that humans have to offer, we need to keep asking questions about what can be fixed, not look backwards and pretend it's all okay.

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 29th, 2017 05:17 pm (UTC)
I think about this when people say that the gender wage gap is down to women's choices.

I mean, yes, it is down to women's choices, but those choices weren't made in a vacuum, they were limited by reality. Fact: women choose to work more when childcare is part of the state educational system. So are women choosing to take care of children because they actually really want to stay home and take care of children, or are they just doing it because childcare costs are too high to justify working?

The "first woman doctor who went to medical school whilst pretending to be a man" had to really, really, really want it but it doesn't mean that all the women who are doctors now *didn't* want it either. It just meant that their choices were *constrained.*
Mar. 29th, 2017 06:12 pm (UTC)
yes!!! It's a debate I have with my in-laws, who are very supportive of women but they unknowing fall into a similar trap. They constantly praise friends (women) who have persevered and made it through and show it as proof that all is good back home - without questioning why is it necessary for them to have to constantly fight a system?
Mar. 29th, 2017 07:16 pm (UTC)
Yes! There used to be a poster around that said something to the effect of success not being when a female Einstein made it, but when an average woman could.

I think of myself as pretty successful, but it would be really nice some day to find myself in a meeting where I'm not counting the number of women in the room.
Mar. 29th, 2017 07:17 pm (UTC)
Women will have arrived when everywhere you look, there are semi-incompetent women running a lot of stuff (as men do now). And when there are 12 women sitting on the Supreme Court and nobody makes a big deal about it (as I predict will happen in about two centuries or more, if the USA is still a country).
Mar. 30th, 2017 12:31 am (UTC)
Great perspective. Thanks for the uplift.
Mar. 30th, 2017 02:08 am (UTC)
I want to copy and paste this everywhere! This is so true.
Mar. 30th, 2017 03:42 am (UTC)
I may have done that :)
Mar. 30th, 2017 02:56 am (UTC)
Mar. 30th, 2017 03:43 am (UTC)
Yes! I tried to make this point in a meeting the other day when they tried to use me as an example of "see?! woman!!" I think a few of them got it...
Mar. 30th, 2017 10:20 pm (UTC)
Woman, you are preaching to the choir. It's called exceptionalism - if Madame Curie could do it, so could everyone else, so if they don't, well, they didn't have the guts.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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