From the pictures on her bedroom walls to the gender imbalance of her university teachers and book reviewers, sexism is everywhere for the female scientist
You can usually tell the sex of a baby being pushed in a pram. If it’s wearing a colourful outfit decorated with charismatic animals, it’s probably a boy; pink hearts and flowers means a girl. In fact, you don’t even need to see the child – just take a look at its bedroom: dinosaurs, wall-stickers of planets and astronauts, construction blocks, bugs, slime, “experimental” equipment, vehicles and machinery, rather than dolls, fairies, colouring books and crayons…. I think you can guess where I am going with this.
What of the child’s other influences? Who will inspire her to take an interest in the natural world, to explore the chemistry, physics and biology all around her? Her teachers are more likely to be female, although her physics teachers will probably be male. But despite their smaller number, male teachers are better respected. Her books overwhelmingly depict scientists as men – usually old, white men. On television, scientists and engineers appearing on news and current affairs programmes are overwhelmingly male (although Channel 4 News has notably taken steps to change this). Despite some excellent female science presenters, documentaries largely continue to be presented by men, and the gender imbalance for experts appearing on panel shows – particularly in comedy – is infamous.