Challenging Week for Women in STEM

It’s been an interesting week for women in science. I have decided to do my research paper on women in STEM fields, and I feel pretty good about my decision in light of some bad behavior that has come to light in the past week.

The first thing I heard about was Dr. Danielle Lee’s experience when she declined a request her to contribute to a science blog. The long story short version is Dr. Lee was emailed a request for her to contribute her talents as a science writer to a blog without adequate compensation. Dr. Lee, a blogger for Scientific American, declined and the response she received was entirely insulting and inappropriate. For the exact words used and a transcript of the e-mail exchange in question, click the link above.

The second chapter in this story is that her post detailing her experience was taken down by Scientific American saying that the content of her post was “not appropriate” for the blog. The post has since been re-posted with an editor’s note. Scientific American has stated that the post was removed solely to confirm the facts in the post, but there has been much speculation from the time that the post was taken down that it was removed for more troubling reasons. I’m personally skeptical of the “purely legal” reason for removing the post since there were screen shots of the exchange in her post, so confirmation from the other party seems like an excuse.

Stepping away from that incident, it also came to light that This Happened. Long story short again: a writer and playwright, Monica Byrne tells about a meeting she had with a “prominent science editor and blogger.” During this meeting, instead of discussing her career as a science writer, the editor proceeded to talk about his personal life in excruciatingly inappropriate detail. Read her post, it’s gross. Her story was posted last Wednesday (10/9) without identifying the name of her harasser, but on Monday of this week (10/14) she revealed the name of the editor in question: Bora Zivkovic (his response to the incident in the link) who happens to be the Blogs Editor for Scientific American. Whether he was involved in the incident with Dr. Lee is unclear, but that is what pushed Monica to release his name according to her blog posting.

The aftermath of these incidents has been enlightening to see. First, I was personally very disappointed to see the response by Dr. Andrew Maynard. He is another science blogger, and his response was to ask “but what about his life/career/family?” without much thought into what it means for Monica’s professional and personal life. He chose to address the victim for her wrongdoing instead of the man who harassed her, which is mind boggling to me. I was particularly disappointed because the push to hide these incidents, just as Dr. Lee’s experience was initially hidden, does nothing but protect the perpetrators of harassment and stop victims from coming forward.

I think that making people aware that this is happening and providing a space for conversation is a step in the right direction to preventing them so I, for one, applaud these women for coming forward. Unfortunately it’s apparent that there is still a lot of work to be done, both in preventing harassment, and properly supporting victims of harassment when they speak out.

I welcome any thoughts or discussion, and if you’re looking for more information googling any of the parties involved should give you plenty of reading material.

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