Academics

Science Academia Is Still Sexist As Hell

Science is not supposed to be about gender.

The purpose of science is to allow clarity in a world with very little understanding.

Unfortunately, many in prominent positions of American life have made it about gender.

In 2015, a reporter from Breitbart News published an article called, “Here’s why there ought to be a cap on women studying science and maths”.

Seriously.

We can laugh at the ridiculous concept of it, but science is still a sexist field.

Women are expected to fail because they supposedly cannot handle the competition from being in a predominately male field.

They are expected to either deal with sexism in the workplace, or leave.

Dr. Gillian Foulger works at Durham University in the U.K., and she worries that women are still treated the same way that she was in graduate school during the 1980’s.

Her graduate program gave women 1/10 of the spots that men had.

Students on a class trip to a science fair in 1985. Photo Credit: Chad Kainz/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Her teachers were supposed to be all female, and there were so few women in geology that many of her professors did not know new scientific concepts.

After she graduated, she was refused the same opportunities that men were getting, such as positions at geological societies and oil companies, despite the fact she excelled in university.

Foulger was forced to look for opportunities abroad, eventually becoming a volcanologist in Iceland.

There, she had to continuously deal with sexist and xenophobic stereotypes during her tenure.

Students in the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment record soil structure. Photo Credit: Dave Brenner/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

At one point, her male field assistant sexually harassed her.

“I had to lock my door at night to prevent him from breaking in and raping me,” she told me over the phone with little emotion.

It was, and still is, a fact that women are commonly sexually harassed during their time in academia.

“This is the sort of thing I have done for science, Hannah,” Foulger said to me as her voice hardened slightly. “I have done this because science is me. I love science. I don’t consider myself really ‘a woman’, or ‘a man’, or ‘a person’. I consider myself ‘a scientist’.”

She accepted the scorn and abuse from her male colleagues in order to further science.

The main argument of the Breitbart article is that the retention rate for women is low, so funding women in science is a waste of money.

The author is not wrong about the poor retention rate.

Women may earn more than 50% of the degrees in STEM PhD programs, but after graduate school, the numbers of women in science begin to decline rapidly.

In fact, women only make up 21% of full science professors and tend to make half of what their male counterparts make.

Dr. Foulger told me that women leave science because “the environment is stacked against women.”

She also said it is hostile to women.

“Women are not in positions where they can help those who are at a more junior level than themselves,” Foulger said. “So of course they drop out! They are forced out! Males expect women to drop out.”

If you also consider that married mothers are 35% less likely to get a tenure track position than married fathers, and 27% less likely to become tenured, you can probably guess why women feel like they cannot succeed in science.

Dr. Catherine Cardelús, an ecologist at Colgate University, has a similar perspective.

“The author [of the Breitbart article] does not look at the heart of the problem, which is that women do not have the support or infrastructure that they needed,” Cardelús said.

When Cardelús got her PhD in 2002, she was married with children to another professor, and she said that the men in her program expected her and the other women to fail.

Dr. Catherine Cardelús, is an ecologist at Colgate University. She claims that science is not welcoming to women. Photo Credit: Colgate University

Luckily she and one of her friends, who was also a mother, made a deal that they would not drop out of their program.

Despite the discrimination against them, the two women received their degrees and pursued success.

The best way to deal with discrimination in science is by creating representation.

“My presence alone as a woman in science teaching tells people that women can do it,” Dr. Cardelús said, leaning across the small wooden table in her office, her eyes full of defiance. “Everybody should be able to do what they want. There should not be barriers.”

Unfortunately, it is difficult to convince anyone to pursue a career in academia when the odds are already stacked against you.

A lot of the time, it is less emotionally draining to leave academia with a PhD and pursue opportunities in industry.

To compensate for the extra pressure women tend to feel in science, it is important to build a community.

While we can succeed alone, science is much more likely to move forward with everyone working towards a common goal—education and progress.

The best way to get more women in science is establishing a community of women from the beginning, and moving past stereotypes to allow women to take on more important roles.

We need to support our women and other oppressed groups as they pursue a career in science, because the inclusion of different perspectives will push science into the future.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: simpleinsomnia/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Top Things To Avoid Your First Year On Alabama’s Campus

By Michael Smith

Going into my first week at the University of Alabama, I was nervous, excited, and ready for a fresh start after high school.

I not only wanted to meet as many new people as possible, but I wanted to join as many friend groups as possible to expand my horizons.

The first year of college, especially at the University of Alabama, was a time for me and countless other current students to grab independent life by the horns.

While I classify my first year as a success, there are a few things I wish someone told me beforehand.

So, going into my sophomore year, I thought I would share with the incoming class a few warnings about life on Alabama’s campus.

This is not an advice column, but rather an (incomplete) list of things to avoid.

1) Don’t Label People Immediately

This is the single biggest trap I and many other new-to-college students fell into our first week being on campus.

In college, especially at one as large and tightly knit as Alabama, the first few weeks of freshman year are filled to the brim with new names and faces.

The only comparable situation is being a high school student who moved to a new school, having to restart with a whole new group of peers.

Typically, the new student is labeled quickly as “the girl from California” or “the quiet boy.” Now imagine this scenario, but everyone is the new kid.

Photo Credit: University of Alabama/ Facebook

Photo Credit: University of Alabama/ Facebook

Naturally, with so many people and so much information to process, the good-ole brain likes to just assign people one or two characteristics by whatever the first impression of them was.

Don’t let this stick.

Sure, it might be easy to write people off as the guy who is always late or that girl that made brownies.

But in reality, people in college are just as complex and dynamic as they were back in high school, if not more so.

Putting people immediately into a box is unfair and limits potential opportunities and friendships.

2) Don’t Get Involved In The Machine

This is strictly an issue at the University of Alabama.

The Machine, also known as Theta Nu Epsilon, is an underground group of fraternity and sorority members that work to control the Student Government Association, or SGA.

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with the way The Machine is designed.

Theta Nu Epsilon had the potential to just be a political caucus meant to keep Greek issues in mind of the student government, which is actually admirable.

However, there is a BIG but.

While the structure of The Machine is perfectly legitimate, the way it operates is horrifying. The Machine uses voter intimidation, bribes, and, in some cases, death threats to accomplish its goals.

Theta Nu Epsilon works to keep black and non-Greek students out of the SGA and does whatever it takes to win.

I am not saying don’t join Greek life.

Fraternities and sororities provide invaluable bonds through brotherhood and sisterhood and give back to our community in so many ways.

However, if you are in a Machine-controlled house, don’t let someone intimidate you to voting a certain way, don’t ignore racist, sexist, or homophobic sentiment from Machine candidates, and dear god don’t go into the “basement.”

If that doesn’t apply to you, don’t fall into an even worse trap: apathy.

Photo Credit: University of Alabama/ Facebook

Photo Credit: University of Alabama/ Facebook

Sadly, many on our campus have given up on and have stopped voting entirely.

A common sentiment on campus is that SGA elections don’t matter.

Don’t fall for it.

The Machine wouldn’t spend tens of thousands of dollars, countless of hours of labor, and months of meticulous planning if the SGA didn’t matter.

3)Don’t Sit In The Back Of Class

Moving onto academics, one of the most unexpected features of my freshman year was how much my GPA changed from high school.

While applying to colleges, I barely hung onto a 3.0 GPA, which was mostly padded by good grades at the beginning of high school.

Senior year, I was lazy, barely turned in work, and played games on my iPad during class.

I knew I needed to change going into college, so I made myself to sit in the front row of every class I took.

Why?

Because sitting in the front forces you to pay attention.

The professor is right there, almost hovering over you.

You can’t play games, you can’t take a nap, and you have to turn in every assignment out of fear that your professor will scold you.

This may have not been an issue in high school, but in lecture classes of 200, you can get away with a lot hiding in the back.

Sometimes fear is a good motivator.

Now, of course, when I was tired, already knew the material, or needed to leave early, I would sit in the last row and try not to disturb those around me.

Overall, the system works.

I went from barely scrapping by in high school with a 3.0 to finishing freshman year with a 4.3 out of a possible 4.33 at Alabama.

4)Don’t Forget The Necessities

One of the dumbest mistakes I made my freshman year was believing that I would get by with some clothes, some sheets, a computer, and a printer.

I under-packed so much that I’m surprised that I even survived dorm life last year.

It is a common and simple mistake.

Little knick-knacks that are only used sparingly are easily forgettable.

I even made a conscious decision not to bring them.

However, they are quite essential when living independently.

For examples, you really can’t get away with not having a pizza cutter, or nail clippers, or oven mitts, or an umbrella.

You might think you can, but you can’t.

I know, I tried life without all of these things last year.

I failed.

Photo Credit: The University of Alabama

Photo Credit: The University of Alabama

Now, don’t take this cautionary tale as an excuse to pack everything and the kitchen sink.

Pack what you are going to pack and buy all the little things at Tuscaloosa’s SuperTarget the first week of class.

Also, share with your roommates.

Don’t buy four pizza cutters when you only need one.

For the rest of the year, simply keep a list of things you need from the store and take Alabama’s shopping bus route on Sunday every week or two.

Then, you won’t be asking your neighbors for a printer cable constantly like I did.

In conclusion, I know that it is stressful uprooting your entire life in the matter days.

But, even when you miss your old life, always remember to take in the fact that our campus is filled with brilliant educators, kind people, and extraordinary football.

My freshman year at the University of Alabama was the best year of my life, only to be matched by the next three.

I know the incoming freshman class is going to be even better than the last.

Be excited, because you are attending the best university in the world.

Roll Tide.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in life. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: The University of Alabama/ Facebook.

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