Women still are underrepresented in STEM fields. But some female scientists are now gaining recognition—and due credit—for their breakthroughs.
Science | Women of Impact
By Angela Saini
“I have something to tell you.”
I was ready to head home after giving a lecture about Inferior—my book documenting the history of sexism in science and its repercussions today—when a soft-spoken woman approached me. She told me she was studying for a Ph.D. in computer science at a British university and was the only woman in her group. Her supervisor wouldn’t stop making sexist jokes. He never picked her for workshops or conferences.
“Every interaction is awkward for me. I feel intimidated,” she said. “Most of the time I just find myself counting every minute.” Her plan was to see out the final years of her Ph.D., leave the university, and never look back.
I’ve had hundreds of these fleeting encounters with women scientists and engineers, all over the world, in the two years since publication of the book—which seems to reflect back at women the kinds of sexism that they experience in their own lives. When these women approach me at events to quietly share their stories, I’ve found what they want above all is empathy, to be told they aren’t imagining their misery. Their accounts of discrimination, marginalization, harassment, and abuse reinforce that, though progress has been made, there’s a long way to go.