Bridget Williams Books
2016 | 104pp | £2.59
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Science – it’s all about rationality, revealing hidden truths and solving problems. It’s always progressing, 100% objective and built on indiscriminate statistics. If there’s one discipline you can rely on to be fair, it’s science. Only, if you look at the data, that isn’t the case. Science is sexist.
Nicola Gaston mentions a few isolated sexism incidents in her book Why science is sexist, but she’s far more interested in what research studies can tell us about sexism in science. Rather depressingly, it seems science’s assumed objectivity might actually be hindering progress towards true equality. When it comes to assessing ourselves, we, as scientists, fail.
The book helps the reader understand how sexism can manifest itself in scientific research and Gaston explains why we are stuck in this status quo. She also offers suggestions for dealing with it – none of which mention make-up or hairdryers.
Some treatises on sexism can come across as unnecessarily aggressive. I’m not saying sexism shouldn’t make us angry – it should make us all angry. But Gaston maintains an incredibly balanced stance on the problem, and I can see her text sitting in science faculties everywhere as required reading. Just as women are tired of being stereotyped, this book does not paint all men as dinosaurs. But it’s not only men who should be reading this book – it turns out women are just as susceptible to unconscious bias.
Gaston is willing to hold herself accountable, as we all should, and finishes the book with a mini action plan outlining how she intends to disrupt the status quo. This injects some optimism into what starts out as quite a gloomy book. Expect to finish the book feeling hopeful, because if scientists can explain the root of sexism in science, then we can tackle it.
I can’t think of the last time I devoted an hour to doing something as important as reading this book. And since awareness is the first step to rectifying the wrong of sexism in science, I suggest you educate yourself by reading this book too.
Listen to our book club podcast for an extract from the book, an interview with author Nicola Gaston and our thoughts on Why science is sexist