Let me make this clear. I am a woman. I am a scientist. I have a blog. I would not call myself a "blogger", given the more-than-sad state of this thing. I wish I had the time to blog about science, I really do. However, my job is not a "blogger"; I am a PhD student with a lot of things on my plate. I read my usual blogs in the morning, comment when I deem it necessary (read: rarely) and get on with my own work.
Some of my usual blogs include Bora Z's A Blog Around the Clock and Ed Yong's Not Exactly Rocket Science as well as following them (and many others) on twitter. There was the recent Science Online 2011 event as well as some articles concerning "Women Science Bloggers" and the various people and issues surrounding that concept. I have read what I can, and given some thought to the issue, but I have found myself getting slightly irate the more I see the term "Women Science Bloggers" pop up (also as #wsb on Twitter).
Why? I guess I should not be surprised at my reaction. I have the same impulses every time I get invited to a "woman's lunch" at scientific conferences. Though I realise women face different difficulties, particularly in science, which has not been traditionally a female pursuit, I am incredibly put off by attending these events. What if a conference held a "men's lunch"? (I know that's a pretty cliché response to a much more complex issue, but stick with me) Well, I can tell you I'd probably be the first in there, waving my burning bra in their faces. I simply do not think that to answer these issues, we should be actively separating genders for the purpose of discussion.
This is a tricky topic. I want to address issues that women face, especially in science. I have experienced it myself, but think that the "divide and conquer" approach is counter-productive. It sets women aside as "others" and do not allow for productive discussion.
I believe that I have come this far in astrophysics by my own right. I do not want my success negated by affirmative action. When I was in my last year of undergraduate, I was the first to get accepted into a PhD program due to the fact that I wanted to move overseas and needed to apply earlier (and I wasn't a bad student). However, my happiness was brought down by my male friends who figured I had "just got in because I was a woman". Now, this may or may not have been said seriously, but it was said by a group of men who were incredibly stressed out about their future careers. Seeing phrases like "we encourage women and other minority groups to apply" on their applications were throwing my white, male friends off their game.
I am the postgraduate representative for my university's Project Juno Committee, which was started by the Institute of Physics in order to address the issues of women in physics departments. I was more-than-hesitant to join this group because I have seen many get-women-into-physics schemes turn into positive discrimination. However, I thought I would go along and see what it was (I am willing to give anything a chance, and yes, I have gone to a few "women's lunches" as well) and was pleasantly surprised.
I approached this committee not to "address the issues of women in science" but more to create a happier, healthier environment for everyone in the physics and astronomy department. I held a seminar for the other PhD students in our department to discuss our futures and why we wanted to stay or leave academia. It was a hard sell, initially, but we had a good showing of 50% men and women who were there to talk about the stress of moving, having a family and advancing careers. These topics were on the mind of both the men and the women of the group.
Family matters are no longer as women-oriented as they once were, so how come the scientific (my experience is in physics) community continues to isolate women for these discussions?
I feel that the "Science Community" and the "Science Blogger Community" is pretty similar. It has a wide range of interests, backgrounds and personalities. Like I said at the beginning, it is hard for me to comment on the struggles of being a "woman science blogger" but I do know what it is like to be a "woman scientist" and frankly, I would rather be addressed as a "scientist".
Yes, I am proud of being a woman. I do not hide behind my sex and sexuality, but that is one aspect to who I am. It should not put me into an "other" category when it comes to my career.
Demographics are, indeed, an issue. In astrophysics (combining the astronomy and physics and astrophysics community in my mind... as I dabble in all of them) I would say that you can pretty much estimate 15-20% female in collaborations, meetings and conferences (and yes, I do count... some talks can be quite dull). This obviously changes the game.
Here is what we do. We stop referring to "women science bloggers" or, ridiculously "men science bloggers" and instead we blog, we keep a presence. People will get used to seeing women around the blogosphere. The same holds for science (and is starting to take effect); instead of me getting up to give a talk and being introduced as a woman scientist to a bunch of kids excited about science, they simply see that I am a woman and therefore simply become used to the idea.
Blogs let you hide behind a persona, male or female, but that is not terribly different from science. We just need representatives. The more people standing up, saying who they are and speaking with the public will start to shift public opinion.
The process is slow. There are not that many female physicists, but the more that I take it upon myself to go to schools, go to planetariums and talk to the public, without making my gender an issue, people will just see that I exist. It is a matter of greying the issue, not making it more black-and-white.
This is why I refer to myself as a "Woman of Science" and not a "Woman Scientist"... the difference is subtle, yet elegant.