#GirlsWithToys: Using social media to deal with casual sexism

#girlswithtoys science communication

Equity in STEM has been a long time in coming. While we’ve made progress, casual comments like the one made by Prof. Shrinivas Kulkarni from CalTech continue.

During an interview with NPR, Prof. Kulkarni, a professor of astronomy and planetary science, said that, “Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call ‘boys with toys.”

Doubtless, Kulkarni didn’t mean anything by the comment, but Twitter wanted to make sure we recognise the significant role that women play in science, technology, engineering and maths. And so, the hashtag #GirlsWithToys began with female scientists across multiple disciplines posting about their work.

Social media and science have a burgeoning relationship. Channels like Twitter and Facebook are great spaces for encouraging debate and engagement from different audiences. In the case of #GirlsWithToys, the opportunity to use a hashtag to focus attention on  gender equity in science has resulted in a humorous and effective campaign.

Social media and sexism in science

#GirlsWithToys is not an isolated incident. Twitter exploded a few weeks ago in relation to a sexist peer review in which a paper on gender differences in the PhD to postdoc transition was rejected after some unseemly comments by an anonymous reviewer. After one of the authors of the rejected paper tweeted excerpts of the review, the case got so much attention that the journal issued an apology and offered to re-enter the paper into the review process.

Highlights from #GirlsWithToys

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