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Women in Science, Blogging, and Alternative Careers

An interesting conversation began this week in the blogosphere concerning the number of female science bloggers. And unsurprisingly the conversation evolved from the question: where are the female science bloggers?

One of the Nature.com blogs began the conversation by making a gender comparison of four “celebrated science bloggers.” The bloggers at PLoS, the Guardian, Discovery, and Wired were found to be predominately male.

Subsequent articles at the Guardian and CENtral Science found that conclusion too simplistic. On Twitter, the Guardian’s Martin Robbins created a list of female science bloggers, calling it “an impromptu celebration of women in science blogging.” As of Friday morning the female bloggers listed numbered 131, more than double from when I first saw the list Thursday. CENTral Science argued that the original comparison was flawed by only including four well-known science blogs and ignoring other many other well-respected blogs like the prolific ScienceBlogs and, of course, itself. (CENTral Science has many female authors.)

Interestingly, David Kroll at CENtral Science finished his post by asking: “Does the overrepresentation of women at CENtral Science reflect that women are more likely to choose ‘alternative’ careers with their scientific training?” This question has come up in numerous Women in Chemistry oral histories. Although those focus on women with chemistry educations who stay in the field, the interviewees often spend time discussing why so many women leave chemistry and other sciences for alternative careers. Take interviewee Madeleine Jacobs, who began her education and career in chemistry before becoming the longtime editor in chief of Chemical and Engineering News.She’s now the executive director and chief executive officer of the American Chemical Society.

As myself one of many women who fell out of the pipeline somewhere between earning a master’s degree in chemistry and a Ph.D., I can attest that there still exists a problem with attrition at every major transition point from the bachelors degree onward. The reasons for women leaving are deeply personal but often related to larger systemic issues, like the struggle to balance career and family, combatting subtle biases, lack of proper mentoring. The list goes on. The reasons why women leave and seek alternative careers are not hidden nor unknown. The question is are we doing enough to listen to those women who stay in science and make sure they work in environments where everyone regardless of sex can thrive?

Posted In: Policy

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