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Science, the gender gap, and how to make it worse

Of late, some people have really hit it out of the park when it comes to articulating the obstacles women face in science. In what seems to be an effort to restore symmetry to the universe, the Guardian’s Emma G. Keller recently did her best to hit it right back in. The piece is a reagent-grade mixture of bad science, just-so stories, and unvarnished sexism.

The backlash has been swift and forceful, as documented on our Storify. Of particular note was this rebuttal from Dean Burnett.

What’s most striking to me about Keller’s piece is that she didn’t ask any female scientists about their early experiences with science. It seems to me that if we want to know what makes it harder for young women to get into science, and what keeps them going despite the difficulties, that would be an obvious place to start. Not that you’d get easy answers that way—but it might give a good indication of which direction to take with future research.

Teachers would also probably be a good group to ask. Have they observed any patterns in the way that girls in grade school and high school respond to science education? What about instructors in post-secondary institutions? Is there perhaps an alarming trend driving attrition among female academics? If you have any insight about the factors that help women get into science and stay there, or the things that hold them back, we’d love to hear about it.

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