The Role of Men in “Women in Science”

Being a woman in science, naturally I have been thinking about the whole movement of “Women in Science.” It’s been gaining momentum with a growing number of tweets (#womeninscience), Facebook shares of news and blogs, and sessions at scientific meetings popping up. We’ve all heard the depressing statistics – less pay, higher chances of dropping out at each step up the scientific ladder, less chance of being funded, and lower publication rates (for a detailed overview, click here). Women are tired of it and are seeking ways to create change in the system. Recently, I went to ScienceOnline and attended the session on Women in Science. Most of its attendees were overwhelmingly women and we talked about the problems, but I felt there was we could do little about the solutions and left feeling helpless. I thought there wasn’t a whole lot that could be done until problems were fixed at the top – which involves working with men.

Noticing the lack of men at the session, I wondered how do men feel about the women in science movement? Not whether they agree or disagree, but do they feel they belong? Do they feel welcome at sessions such as this? Can they contribute? Is labeling something as Women in Science exclusive to men?

I think that men can participate in the Women in Science movement and should be encouraged to participate. You don’t have to be a woman to set a good example and because there are more men in higher positions, they have the opportunity to be good role models. This can be demonstrated through actions such as seeking out and creating collaborations with female scientists and treating your female and male graduate students the same, in behavior, the ways you speak to them, and tasks that you give them. When planning seminar speakers go the extra mile and try to get a balance of male and female speakers. We should bring attention to men who are doing a good job at this.

Finally, do attend Women in Science sessions, and for women, encourage and invite men to go. Just because you are not a women does not mean you can partake in the conversation. It’s okay. We welcome you. It shows support of the movement, even if you don’t contribute. Your presence shows you are learning and becoming aware of the issues.

That being said, maybe we should consider a change of name for Women in Science sessions to not be so exclusive. If we want change to happen, we need to have our voices heard by those who can make big impacts.

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