61 Responses to On diversity

  1. Alejandro says:

    Is my turn not really not you that to say!

  2. Amy Charles says:

    Okay. I’m not properly a sci blogger; a lit-sci blogger, maybe. Am I celebrated? If I am, the cake has yet to reach me. I’m also a single mother with other projects and a need to make a living. So if the male childless or child-having-with-wives bloggers of the world are smoking me, you know what? Fuck ’em. Fuck the competitive project. Because there is no way for me to play that game, even if I liked it, which I don’t.

    If someone wants to come around and pay me, oh, $10K/yr to blog regularly, I’ll do it. Absent that, I’ll take my own sweet time, I’ll be as goddamned obscure as I like, and I’ll write looooong. As long as I like, as long as it takes for me to fully develop the points I’m making and show what I want to show.

    If I’m doing this for free, I do it my way, and on my clock. The boys without primary responsibility to others want to go knock themselves out with testosterone and tell themselves they have a lock on the definition of science blogging, hell with ’em.

  3. Amy Charles says:

    And that’s a godawful photo, isn’t it. Ought to do something about that.

  4. Eva Amsen says:

    I *hate* being defined or pigeonholed because of my gender for things like blogging or studying science. .

    It’s not like being female is in any way a hurdle in blogging. Just blog if that’s what you want, and blog *well* if you want to be good at it and recognised for it – as you would with any other activity. No need for debates and discussion.

    Rant not over, but I decided to go do something productive instead.

  5. rpg says:

    Are you saying you don’t care about diversity? Or you don’t care that nobody cares about your blogs?

    “blog *well* if you want to be good at it and recognised for it” — that’s the point. It’s not enough.

  6. rpg says:

    (now that I’m more awake)

    “I *hate* being defined or pigeonholed because of my gender for things like blogging or studying science.”

    Do you know anybody who doesn’t hate it? The point of the discussion was that, like it or not, people *are* pigeon-holed (consciously or otherwise) by those with the power to make shit happen. Jenny’s graphs were instructive: I’ll ask her to upload them. Sexism, racism, whateverism are alive and well and will affect you. You might not see that as a problem, but there are those of us who do and want to change things.

  7. Eva says:

    Neither of those. I’m saying that science blogging is an even playing field. Gender does not matter.

  8. rpg says:

    Right. You’d be wrong, then.

  9. Eva says:

    Oh, I didn’t realize there were gender restrictions to owning a computer, having an internet connection*, writing well, being creative and intelligent and having the ability to communicate interesting topics.

    Because that’s my whole point – *talking* about women not being recognized as bloggers is not going to help. What it takes is more women to write fantastic posts. It doesn’t have to be every day, it doesn’t have to be about anything controversial, it just has to be GOOD. No Talkfest or mom-scientist bloggy swap (which I saw somewhere yesterday) is going to make anyone – male or female – better at writing engagingly about science. Writing thoughtful posts about science, however, is.

    In fact, I’m happy to challenge myself and (after SciBarCamb is over, so maybe starting in May) write only well-researched science posts until the end of the year, and show my blog stats before and after to prove that it was the WRITING that mattered. (Or whatever measure of “success” seems appropriate.)

    *internet connection not even required for good blogging. Both GrrlScientist and the girl from Hyperbole and a Half have written great posts at times when they couldn’t afford home internet. In fact, it might actually make for better writing with fewer distractions. But that’s another topic.

  10. rpg says:

    Because there isn’t a hierarchy that makes it difficult to get noticed?

    I want to live in your world, it’s better than mine.

  11. rpg says:

    The overwhelming majority of high-profile science bloggers are white, lefty and bourgeois. If you’re in that group, you’re more likely to benefit from, for example, blogging networks that can raise your profile (being a woman probably doesn’t hurt as much as it did, but it does still appear to be a factor). 

    If you’re a talented writer but don’t see any role models to which you can relate, it’s very difficult to feel you can succeed. 

    To say that it’s not a problem for you, personally, misses the point, and to claim it’s a level playing field smacks a little bit of blaming the victim. 

    If you’re not bothered, fine, but please understand that some people think there is a problem and are trying to do something about it. 

  12. cromercrox says:

    Q: How many Hampstead Liberals does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: None. They form a working party to produce a discussion document called ‘Coping With Darkness’.

    Outreach: for the past three years I’ve been a judge on a science debating contest between secondary schools in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. To see a girl in Islamic dress speak passionately in favour of stem-cell research was an eye-opener. The blogging talent is there to be tapped.

  13. Eva says:

    I don’t see anything being done about anything. I just see a bunch of collective whining.

    I’m saying that the only way to actually do something about it all is to write, write, write the pieces they want to be recognized for.

  14. I liked this post – as a sort of aside – it always rankles me to be called a left-wing middle class atheist – I am middle class now, but haven’t always been – left-wing in some respects but not in many others – atheist – hmm that is my own personal business whether I believe or don’t believe to be honest and has nothing to do with science in my opinion …

    But that is what I like about this post – its complex! people are complex – do we need to promote more women – yes – do you want to promote women just because they are women? No absolutely not, they should be good at what they do….

    But what is not true I think is what @Eva says – that all it takes is more good blog posts – I think in principle and in a perfect world that would be true but the problem is getting noticed, there are alot of smart people who write well who don’t get noticed – and perhaps that is disproportionately women over men – but also women are under-represented in science as in other fields but that is changing so maybe this too will change … I don’t know the answers to this but just putting stuff out there….

    The one thing that bothered me about talkfest is that people talked alot about how women were more nervous to post, less likely to promote themselves which may be true for some but is that STILL really true in general? I think men get nervous to post too and also feel funny sometimes about promoting themselves (I know some of them) But I think what it made me sort of question to myself is sometimes it seems there is this general idea, which in itself is sort of sexist I think, that women are somehow nicer than men – which I don’t believe – there are nasty women and nice women just as there are nasty men and lovely men –

    Just a cacophony of thoughts from me (sorry) – maybe this is why I am not a celebrated science blogger 😉

  15. rpg says:

    @Eva: “I don’t see anything being done about anything. I just see a bunch of collective whining.”

    Right. You weren’t there. Did you read Elaine’s post? It wasn’t just whining–we’re actually trying to get to grips with the problem, and figure out what to do.

    I don’t see the point in SciBarCamp–it’s just people talking.

    @Sylvia, yes, yes yes yes it’s complex. And it’s a lovely cacophony.

  16. rpg says:

    Hang on, I haven’t finished.

    If this was the people who were suffering from prejudice sitting around whining, then yes, Eva might have a point. But actually, there were people there with influence who were trying to figure out what they could do to help.

  17. Eva says:

    “I don’t see the point in SciBarCamp–it’s just people talking.”

    I could point out that in *that* case, that is *exactly* the point, and that there is a difference between people getting together to talk at something that has as *goal* having conversations, and people getting together to talk to try to achieve a goal that is in effect achieved by not talking but contemplating and writing and posting on the internet.

    Or I could wonder out loud if the ad hominem attacks (this one as well as the reference to my T-shirt several comments above, which I pretended I didn’t notice) were merely meant as a subtle example to point out to *me* how *mean* all those nasty male bloggers are, and see it as a test to see if I would be able to continue in a logical debate.

    But anyway, I love that you brought up SciBarCamp, because it’s a great example of something that I and other women worked really hard on and got recognition for! I didn’t want to use any examples pertaining to myself, but since you keep bringing my personal things into the discussion I thought I might as well get on board with it.

  18. Austin says:

    “The overwhelming majority of high-profile science bloggers are white, lefty and bourgeois. If you’re in that group, you’re more likely to benefit from, for example, blogging networks that can raise your profile.”

    Heh. I’m a bourgeois white leftie blogger with a low profile, and the only blogging network I belong to is Occam’s Typewriter. Guess I must be doing something wrong…

  19. @Eva – where is there a reference to your t-shirt? which you pretended to not notice, I don’t notice it at all…

  20. Eva says:

    It’s the “no one cares about your blog” thing. I wore a T-shirt wit that text on it to Science Online (and previously to a blogger meetup), as a joke, and Richard keeps turning it into nobody caring about *my* blog. (Also as a sort of joke, I guess.)

  21. ahh – inside joke – got confused…(thanks)

  22. rpg says:

    Nice. If someone disagrees with you, it’s a personal attack?

  23. KristiV says:

    I’ve never understood the insistence that role models must be the same race, ethnic group, gender, socioeconomic group, etc. as the mentees. This continues to be carried out to a ridiculous degree in academia, and it seems wrongheaded to me. I know that “like mentors like” is important to some people, but I can’t relate to that notion. I think that one of the functions of empathy is that we can reach out to others who aren’t like us, whether we’re talking about ethnic background, disability, politics, religious belief/lack thereof, socioeconomic background, or gonads and genitalia.

    For choosing role models, what a person does has always been more important to me than what a person looks like, or what boxes he or she ticks on a census form. One of my role models in high school was an African-American male, older brother of a classmate – he got accepted to the university that I wanted to attend (in spite of our crap magnet high school background), excelled academically in science there, and went on to obtain a graduate degree (MD). I continued to view him as a role model at university, even though I eventually decided to go the PhD route. What mattered to me at the time was that he had overcome our inadequate high school education in the sciences, and that he still managed to be active in intramural sports and theater groups at university.

  24. Eva says:

    “If someone disagrees with you, it’s a personal attack?”

    Not always, but that one clearly was. You deliberately gave an example of something I was involved in, and the example didn’t work as counterargument. Why not pick a better example of something that involved talking as a means to an end (rather than talking as the goal itself)? I can think of a few.


    me: “I don’t see the point of talking to reach this goal.”
    you: “What about the Science is Vital Campaign where we prevented funding cuts by talking about it?” or “What about Rhys Morgan who got a sketchy “drug” banned by talking about it?”
    me: “You’re right, in those cases talking had a clear effect, but there was also a clear final audience that needed to be reached. Who are you hoping to convince to make a difference if it comes to women and science blogging? What is the final goal? Have the well-known blog networks been contacted and asked how they select their bloggers, and whether they’re aware of the gender imbalance? What did they say? Did they select bloggers themselves or did the bloggers apply? Were they recommended? Were there women shortlisted who were then not invited for some reason? Were they invited and refused? And is being part of these exclusive networks what matters in the end? What about other metrics? Book deals? General blog awards? Newspaper columns? Invited to speak at events? Tenure as a result of fulfilling a required “outreach” segment by blogging? Finding a scientific collaborator through blogging and publishing a paper together? There are so many possible endpoints that all mean “recognition as a blogger”. WHO needs to be influenced, if anyone?”

    But now I’m just debating with myself.

  25. cromercrox says:

    I think there’s a statistical elephant in the room, and that’s this: the proportion of the general population that blogs – and even the proportion of scientists that blogs – is tiny. In which case, is there really a significant difference between the number of men who blog, and the number of women who blog? Among scientists, is there a significant difference of gender representation among science bloggers compared with scientists generally? Just asking – and as a way of countering the goldfish-bowl mentality that discussion of blogging sometimes engenders.

    Speaking as an old (I’m 49 on Easter Sunday), Jewish, right-wing blogger who lives outside London, I DEMAND that my voice is heard, and if I’m not asked by LOTS of people IMMEDIATELY to contribute to their blogs, thus overcoming my INHERENT SHYNESS, I shall thcweam and thcweam and thcweam until I’m thick, and I can, you know.

  26. Austin says:

    I protest! We white leftie middle-aged bourgeois bloggers who don’t live in the South-East of England are being silenced in a politically-correct attempt to give time to all sorts of minorities, like right-wing middle-aged bloggers from Norfolk called Henry who keep chickens.

    On one of the wider points, I’m with Henry here – there is inevitably a ‘Small goldfish-bowl” effect in blogging. * Glug glug *

  27. cromercrox says:

    I’m being repressed! I’m being repressed! See the violence inherent in the system!!

  28. KristiV says:

    Neither of you has any idea what it’s like to be a white, middle-class, middle-aged, left-wing, atheist TEXAN blogger. I protest!11!!

    (What am I protesting about, again???)


  29. rpg says:


    “In which case, is there really a significant difference between the number of men who blog, and the number of women who blog?”

    Wrong question. The answer is ‘no, probably not’, but the point that those who get listened to, get invited to blog networks, wider press, etc., is skewed.

    @Eva: You’ll notice I said ‘blogs’, plural, in my reply to you up there. That was deliberate.

    “Who are you hoping to convince to make a difference if it comes to women and science blogging?”

    eh, a major point I was making was that it’s not just about women, and that I was disappointed we didn’t get to talk about other sorts of diversity. The points you raise in your last comment are all valid, but they have been discussed, and as I say, people are trying to do something about it. But it doesn’t stop there.

  30. rpg says:

    @Kristi, I think you actually made the point there that like *is* important:

    “What mattered to me at the time was that he had overcome our inadequate high school education in the sciences”

    so he was like you in that you shared a common background. In your situation, that minority effect trumped those of sex and race.

    This again goes back to what I was saying: that it’s *not* just about sex. It’s not just about race. There are other issues as well, less visible (both metaphorically and literally) than can matter just as much.

  31. KristiV says:

    @ rpg – That’s true, we shared a background and were alike in a context that mattered to me. However, that particular form of “likeness” does not drive faculty recruiting and professional school admissions policies in US academia. For some reason, I’m roped into several of these diversity committees at work, and my view that role models need not be race/gender/ethnic “like” is a minority opinion, so to speak. Now that one of my mentors in this area has retired, I’m often the sole supporter of the notion that diversity of experience with dis(abled) individuals matters as much as that with individuals of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. It just seems to me that university administrators and some faculty have a very narrow idea of what “diversity” encompasses, and I can see now that this attitude extends beyond academia.

  32. rpg says:

    Ah, awesome. Yes, that’s my point exactly.

  33. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    The first people who come to mind when I think about high profile science bloggers are Ed Yong, Female Science Professor, and Rosie Redfield. Whether this a) negates the “most high profile science bloggers are white males” axiom or b) proves your point about people who fall into one or more “minority” category responding more to people who aren’t of the majority white male demographic, however, is up for debate.

  34. rpg says:

    Well, we need more data, that’s true. Jenny’s infamous graph of major networks hasn’t changed much.

    And I should imagine people reading this thread are less likely to be as prejudiced as most, to be honest.

    (for the record, I was very careful not to say ‘white males’ in my discussion of different types of diversity).

  35. I’d like to challenge Richard on his assertion that the difference in numbers between male and female science bloggers is not significant.

    Dave Munger writing in Seed last year showed stats from Research Blogging – men outnumbering women by about 2 to 1. This makes sense to me, I’d be very surprised if they were similar given that fewer women work in science. The same article has stats on geobloggers that are even more skewed.

    It still seems that good women science bloggers are proportionally less likely to get recognition compared to male bloggers of the same standard, but a lot of the bias on the networks comes from a there being a smaller pool of female science bloggers to choose from. Another reason for the bias is that women are more likely to post less frequently – they have less time if they are juggling family, and maybe they are less concerned about attracting traffic (see Amy’s comment at the top of this thread)

    I’d like to see the number of female bloggers on prominent networks reflecting the number of female science bloggers overall (this seems fair and reasonable). I’d also like to see more women bloggers because (given the assumption that men and women are equally good bloggers) we are missing out on talent and voices are not being heard.

  36. rpg says:

    I didn’t actually make such an assertion. I agreed that there probably isn’t a significant difference once you take sample size into account. I then said it was the wrong question.

    It varies by field, but I take issue with the statement “fewer women work in science”, especially when you only count scientists of ‘bloggable age’ (perhaps it’s noteworthy that the -two- three most senior bloggers who immediately come to my mind are all women. Perhaps not), and especially in biology.

    Nonetheless, the point remains: “the number of female bloggers on prominent networks [should reflect] the number of female science bloggers overall”. No argument there. The other point is that male vs female stats is only a small part of the diversity (and by implication, prejudice) problem we have.

  37. In terms of stats to back up my comment “fewer women work in science” – take a look at the data on the UKRC website. This is for SET (science, engineering and technology) rather than just science, I would be interested to know the figures just for science.

    I agree that the fall off tends to happen more after aged 30 for women and that many bloggers are younger. But there are still significant numbers of prominent bloggers older than 35 and I think the lack of women in science careers explains some of the bias at this level.

  38. rpg says:

    You can spend many a happy hour looking at different sectors across the EU at http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/statistics/search_database. It makes interesting reading. Numbers of women across the EU region in research very much depends on how you slice it: look at total vs ‘researchers’, for example, in the government sector.

    But anyway, the interesting thing is the bias, and the explanation thereof. The question that should be addressed is, is this graph fair?

    And how does that graph look when you look at other ‘diversity’ classes?

  39. It may not be rational, it may not be right, it may not appropriate – but when I look at a high-profile blogging network on a national media platform and see that they have only a tiny fraction of female bloggers, it just makes me feel sad, discouraged and part of a second-class group. Fifty percent of the people on this planet are female, so something, somewhere along the line, has gone horribly wrong, whether that be the number of women who managed to get educated in science to the level where they were qualified to write blogs, or the number who have time to blog because they are disproportionally saddled with family matters, or the number who are seen as being valuable – whatever combination of complex factors led to this state of affairs, it’s still a skew somewhere in that continuum and as such, I feel it is an injustice.

    I can’t help the way this makes me feel, and I don’t think that women (or any other under-represented group) feeling this way, and voicing these feelings, qualifies them as being “whiners” – especially if the sentiments come along with ideas about how to improve the situation (as TalkFest did, and my own writing, tries to do).

    And a minor comment (sorry if someone else above has already pointed this out and I missed it): The point about Research Blogs being 2:1 male:female is a bit skewed in itself because this venue only tracks blogs about scientific research/data/papers. Many blogs (including my own) are still science blogs but don’t qualify for this list. It’s possible more women write “different” kinds of science blogs. I’d love to know.

  40. Amy Charles says:

    Has anyone here considered that women have much less invested in proving to all ‘n sundry that they’re king of the motherfucking mountain?

    It’s not just science blogging, or science, or councils, or daycare playrooms. This goes on anytime there’s more than zero XYs in a room. The men and/or boys, unless with trusted “I can relax now” people, will immediately go ME ME ME ME ME ME, start talking themselves up & competing if there’s anything to compete with, and set to defining dominance and shooting for it. I find this a pain in the ass, and largely ignorable, but the part that pisses me off and strikes me as a serious problem isn’t that they’re king of the mountains they’ve defined, or even that they’ve gone around grabbing all the money to fund the further glorification of their mountains. It’s that if a woman says “Oh, fuck your game, and get your hands out of my goddamned pocket/shirt/pants/etc,” the reaction is shock, swift and dirty ad-hominem attack from all points possible, and cries of victimhood. That’s the part that chaps my ass. It seem to get worse as the guys get older.

    If you figure out how to fix it, Richard, let me know. I’m thinking the lifetime front-loading with testosterone is a large part of the problem, but then again if you fix that we wind up with other problems. It’s restrainable, sure, but you have to be willing to fight hard & dirty.

    On a more practical level: Have you considered asking why anyone should blog regularly? I mean I talk a lot, sure, but do I have things worth publishing every day? No. So should I talk for the hell of talking and being noticed? No, I don’t think so. What for? To add to the noise? No. To publicize myself? I’m missing the argument that says I need to do this. Here’s what I need to do: Scrape together maybe $12-15K/yr. Take care of the kid. Stop eating so much crap. Beyond that, I’m free. I don’t have to commit to writing blog posts; I can write whatever I like.

    I think part of the problem you’re seeing may well be that fewer women than men think the game’s worth the candle. Yes, it’s important if you’re trying to build some blog-based career. But how many sciencey people are trying to do this? How many writers?

    Maybe the urgency in your post is coming partly from the fact that you guys work in a world where giant funding is required, which means there isn’t the freedom to tell its king-of-mountain structures to go fuck themselves without losing the ability to do your work, as I can. If no agent ever hears my name (too late, but if), it doesn’t matter. I can write all I like, publish all I like. For that matter, if I feel like teaching, no, of course I don’t have to slave through a PhD to do it. Taught part of an undergraduate class today, in fact, and did a kickass job if I say so myself (to do with the perceived trustworthiness and objectivity of scientific images).

    What I give up is the dough and the letterhead. So far this works, and I’m halfway to the finish line. We’ll see how the rest of it goes. But no, I’m absolutely uninterested in playing king-of-the-mountain blogfest.

    There’s still the matter of recognition, I guess. I’m a little insensitive to this one. Who are all these strangers whose admiration I’m supposed to want? You read me, Jenny reads me, a bunch of other people I respect read me, and if you like it you pass it along. Maybe if I get a taste of fame I’ll suddenly be hooked on the smack of the millions, but till then, I think what I mostly need is $15k/yr.

  41. Amy Charles says:

    Oh. All that said, I’d strongly second Jenny. No, wanting to hear more women in the mix — a lot more — isn’t whining. But I think that the answer may lie outside trying to get a lot of women to publish in ways that make no sense to them.

    I would, by the way, totally love to go to a lot of these bloggy-conference things, and if my tether were longer I would. No doubt someday I will.

  42. Amy, there are plenty of women that think the game is “worth the candle”, who would love to be asked to blog on a major commercial network and who would love to get paid to do it. These are the same women who are already blogging with high frequency and have the time and ability and desire to do so (for free). Of this pool, it is a shame that they are not more represented. If there weren’t any great women writers who had these talents and inclinations in spades, your argument would hold up. But there are a lot of them.

    Also, you seem to be confusing ‘celebrated’ with ‘high frequency’. There are blogging networks (e.g. the Guardian’s) where some of the bloggers, last time I checked, were blogging less than once a fortnight.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that, if the blogger were suddenly offered money to blog, they might very well shift form a pattern of low frequency to higher frequency, simply because it’s worth it to them. One shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that because X only blogs once a week (for free), she’s not capable of blogging every day. It’s more complicated than that.

  43. rpg says:

    I think it’s probably also worth pointing at that at the meeting on Monday evening there wer something like 50 women and a dozen men, and it wasn’t driven by a “let’s help the poor little women” attitude. These were women who cared, and wanted to change things to make it better for themselves.

    As I say, it’s a shame that there wasn’t time to think about our collective prejudices in respect of other non-white bourgeois &c. bloggers.

  44. cromercrox says:

    I think Amy’s right. Biology lies behind a lot of the skew. I blog because, deep down, I crave attention. Is that a male thing? I suspect that, in large part, it is. It’s probably genetically linked to the locus that predisposes men to monopolise the TV remote control (which once had selective value in the mammoth-murdering department) and to be confrontational with anyone perceived to be on their turf.

  45. rpg says:

    What are you on about, dinosaur-brain?

  46. cromercrox says:

    Don’t listen to rpg, he’s just trying to get attention.

  47. Amy Charles says:

    Jenny, the problem is that those women are competing with men driven by ME ME ME and the fear that if they don’t make it big in the mayfly-span they’ve got, they’ll never get laid again, and will spend their lives getting punished in the beta-male spot. The women aren’t going to be asked to blog, because that’s not how the game goes. If they want to blog for those networks, and get paid, they’ll have to fight and maneuver and strategize and win a spot like anyone else. If you want a blog network that’s not driven by those social forces, then you have to start your own and specifically lay down the rules, and coldcock anyone who comes in and tries to turn it into king-of-mountain. You will then have that roundly-derided thing, a “women’s ______”, and the trick there is to ignore all the pissing. Because that’s what it is. Remember, above, how I said the guys react if you say “fuck your game”?

    Once you have your women’s sciblog network, you will automatically win two things: Access to advertising aimed at well-off/well-educated women, and a permanent seat on any roundtable. You will be the representative women, and your influence will be disproportionate to your numbers. If you can look at that in a ruthless way, you’ll see that this is a win. However, this is not usually what happens. What usually happens is that the women who’re happy or willing to go fight with the boys see, to their horror, that they’re being identified with the women who won’t play the game, and they’ll attack you. If you can shortcircuit that, you have a win.

    Those are the only two choices I’ve seen gain any traction in the last um forty years. Women’s X, or fight by the boys’ rules. Both have serious drawbacks. Of course, the boys have their own problems, which is why on the whole the middle-aged women I know are so much happier with themselves and their lives than the middle-aged men are. It’s not an inconsequential thing.

  48. I know, personally, quite a few of the male bloggers on the platforms we’re discussing and your portrayal bears no resemblance to their personalities or behaviors. So I’m not sure your explanation is doing it for me. I therefore wouldn’t rule out that other factors might be playing a stronger role in the skew.

  49. Amy Charles says:

    Jenny — One, did they start out rich, and two, have you asked them about these things? Because my experience is that if you scratch even the mildest, most androgynous overeducated fella in a prime spot, you’re going to find this stuff. They didn’t just float into wherever they are, and there are reasons why their connections are what they are.

  50. Amy Charles says:

    One way of phrasing it in conversation — since, again, my experience is that the guys don’t give this enormous thought till they have reason to — is to ask it as a negative: What would it mean for them if they blogged for free in obscurity? Why don’t they do that? What’s the payoff for the catbird seat, what do they gain by it? Is the only factor more time to do something they enjoy, or are there other perks that are valuable to them? In other words, if someone were to pay them whatever they make now plus some token amount to blog into a black hole, while allowing them to participate in conversation with paid bloggers through comment threads, would they do it?

  51. Amy Charles says:

    and just when this is getting very interesting, I’ll be incommunicado for a day or two. Back soon.

  52. cromercrox says:

    @Jenny – I have to say I completely agree with Amy. I don’t know how well you know me compared with other male bloggers with whom you’ve shared networks, but, hand on heart, I see Amy’s characterisation of male bloggers and I see myself. I’m a man. So sue me.

  53. rpg says:

    You are not data.

  54. rpg says:

    @Amy, I have two words for you:

    Ed Yong.

  55. Cromercrox says:

    I am data. And so is my wife.

  56. So, about my own phrase “I therefore wouldn’t rule out that other factors might be playing a stronger role in the skew” – it sounds as if some comments above are seriously suggesting that the under-representation of female science bloggers has only one underlying cause – male behavior – open and shut case. I don’t like this because it seems ludicrously simple for human behavior and also, it doesn’t offer as much scope for solutions – the real reason why we all met to discuss this at TalkFest. But if one writes it off as “men are dicks”, then that’s pretty unhelpful. Also, I think it’s enormously unfair on men.

    Perhaps we should agree to disagree on this point, as I’d love to hear more from those who suspect that the problem might be slightly more complex than “men are dicks” – and discuss potential ways to get around them.

  57. KristiV says:

    In other, partially overlapping Spheres of Blog, I suspect that class differences contribute to the complexity of the problem. For one thing, they make nuances of meaning and intent even more difficult to decipher, on the internet where communication can be confusing already. They can also reinforce homogeneity of background and opinion. In particular, I’m thinking about a Sphere of Blog that tends to be dominated by trustafarians/prep school types/ the independently wealthy, a tribe that cuts across lines of gender, ethnic background, religion, and geography. However, in the US, merely hinting that such a tribe exists and has any sort of power makes people jump up and down and froth at the mouth, denying it, denying their privilege.

  58. amy charles says:

    Jenny, I just don’t see why it should be different in sci blogging than in anything else. And it’s regrettable how much can reasonably be attributed to “men are dicks” — I have this from certified men — but I wouldn’t say that that’s *simple*. In fact I just came back from a three-hour opera based on one of Shakespeare’s many well-regarded plays about how men are dicks (Otello, this one). There’s a lot of oh er texture & nuance to dickishness, all sorts of powerful passion and psychology, but the actions do so often boil down to something unfortunately simple. A murdered wife, revenge on a boss, a non-useful-in-the-game girl not invited to paid blogging gigs.

    I’ll say, by the way, as I have before, that I was all set to keep on regarding these characterizations as offensive until I started hanging around at a daycare and watching the 3-year-old boys and girls of terribly earnest hippie types. You know, the kind with no toy guns and androgyny as the going thing and two mommies and r-e-s-p-e-c-t and no TV. Made zero difference. Those boy toddlers acted like nascent frat boys. (I’ll spare you what I saw with the girls.) The thing that amazed me most — and really, it was sophisticated behavior — was their easy readiness to lie their asses off about themselves, puff themselves up, to get something from someone else or to make someone else do something. It was really something else; it’s worth hanging around crowds of little boys just to see it in action. The girls, too. It’s jawdropping.

    Frankly, I think men have reason to feel ridden by those fears I mentioned above, but I’ll spare you all that, too. But as far as solving the problem goes: If you start from the premise that the boys-club problems are the same in sci blogging as anywhere else there’s prizes to be won, what remedies work and don’t work? I think the ones that’ve worked best here have had the force of law behind them, and mean exceedingly large fines and status-stripping for people who flaut those laws, assuming women come along and use the laws. And boy howdy does it generate resentment. Works, though. But I don’t know how you’d apply that to sci blogging, or whether you’d want to, given the atmosphere of collegiality that prevails.

    Kristi, I think this is a very real issue, the class issue. The best remedy I’ve seen is filed under “Network, The Social”. But it only works temporarily; you have to keep doing it again and again.

  59. amy charles says:


    ha, too much symphony

  60. Tricia says:

    Being a science blogger.. I didn’t even know there was such a specific ‘thing’ back in 2004, when I just threw my lamentations about 2D gel analysis on my Livejournal.

    Being a scientist rocked (Being female still does.). It was a great time in my life. To be honest though I was far more into my work than caring if anyone read about it on my blog. It was simply a vent to my frustrations or my inspirations, whether anyone in the anonymous crowd read and acknowledged it or not.

    I suppose in the end it could boil down to a need for some to be needed and recognized. I always felt that the name showing up on medline was good enough for me as a pleasant surprise, even if it was as far off as 4th author, it was marked in my book of eternal achievements. Then again, maybe I had lower goals, or felt my work WAS the goal. I suppose it is different for everyone.

    Quite aware of the boys’ club in science. No reason it wouldn’t exist in cyberspace either. But I could choose to care what they thought about me, or I couldn’t – I chose not to, and instead devoted my care to my love. That was science – not anyone’s opinion of me BEING in science. Didn’t someone else already mention this?

    Perhaps it is simply a difference in why each scientist does what they do, and of those whys, to which degree each one is amplified.

    My lab was primarily women, and primarily, we were geeks who loved our work and lived in our own happy little world there and left the rest of it to those who felt they needed to impact on it or not. Recognition was not as important to us — and I do NOT think that was because of some sub-consciously impressed notions upon us that women can not/do not/should not have a voice or make a difference in the field. It might just be a more generally shared difference in perception among the group as a whole as to why they are ‘conspicuously absent’.

    Think of it this way. The people in the majority have to shout so that their individual voices can hopefully be singled out from the crowd. The people in the majority are noticed by default – simply by their presence.

    /slinks back to silent anonymity

  61. rpg says:

    Hello Tricia, I hope you’ll slink back into the light soon! Thanks for your comment.

Comments are closed.