Women Strike Against Male Chauvinism In Science With #Girls With Toys

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IN PHOTO: Csilla Orgel, a geologist with Crew 125 EuroMoonMars B mission, collects geologic samples for study at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) outside Hanksville in the Utah desert March 2, 2013. The MDRS aims to investigate the feasibility of a human exploration of Mars and uses the Utah desert's Mars-like terrain to simulate working conditions on the red planet. Scientists, students and enthusiasts work together developing field tactics and studying the terrain. All outdoor exploration is done wearing simulated spacesuits and carrying air supply packs and crews live together in a small communication base with limited amounts of electricity, food, oxygen and water. Everything needed to survive must be produced, fixed and replaced on site. Picture taken March 2, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

The trending hashtag, “#Girls with toys” has taken the twitter world by storm. This was in response to an off-the cuff remark of an astronomer who characterized the scientists as “boys with toys.” A large majority of women in the scientific community have taken umbrage to this very chauvinistic view of science and have replied with pictures of their scientific toys ranging from Mars Rovers to the Hadron Collider.

Professor Shrinivas Kulkarni, an astronomy and planetary science professor at the California Institute of Technology, in his interview to NPR’s Joe Palca said, “Many scientists, I think, are what I call ‘boys with toys.’” This unconscious remark by the professor seemed to many as reinforcing the idea that science, technology, engineering and math were the man’s arena. Women scientists across the world have reacted through the hashtag “girls with toys” and portrayed a large variety of equipment used by them in their daily work life.

The fact that the STEM fields are the preserve of men, are not unfounded. A recent study by the American Association of University Women found that women earning bachelor degrees in STEM fields are about 20%. Men outnumber women in every science and technology fields reinforcing the myth that women are ill-equipped for the rigors of innovation. The Obama administration has in 2009, started the Educate to Innovate initiative which seeks to increase women representation in STEM fields. This involves engaging women to develop partnerships with national organizations, governmental agencies and professional mentors to enable them to participate in science from the elementary school levels.

Many feel that remarks like Boys with toys undermine the contribution of women scientists and reinforce the stereotype of science being the old boys’ and geek’s fiefdom. The Twitter hastag “girls with toys” offers a sneak peek in to the fun world of scientists and their cool toys. This may inspire many girls to enter the STEM fields and encourage diversity within the scientific community.

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