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Thu Aug 20, 2015, 10:44 AM

Astronomer Celebrates Female Scientists’ “Special Natural Gift for Caring and Educating”

Astronomer Celebrates Female Scientists’ “Special Natural Gift for Caring and Educating”


“When he said that women’s innate nurturing abilities made them good for work in outreach and development projects, and I felt like we had lurched back to the ’50s,” said David L. Clements, an astrophysics at Imperial College London, who attended the speech.
Furthermore, many women have no interest in being nurturing and resent the implication that they are, simply by nature of their gender. Even those who are nurturing don’t necessarily want it considered as part of their suitability as scientists.

Rachael Livermore, a postdoctoral fellow in astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, also attended the IAU speech and was outraged. “It completely misses the point that we should be striving for equality because excluding huge swaths of people for arbitrary reasons is bad for science as well as being unfair to those excluded,” she said, “not because the excluded groups have some sort of special magical skill to offer."

That really is the core of the problem. Benvenuti, by all accounts, sincerely supports the inclusion of more women in the field and in these leadership positions. Even the most critical attendees I spoke with believed he was trying to compliment his colleagues whom he held in high scientific esteem.

But women aren’t superhero scientists. We’re just scientists. Benvenuti was trying to be supportive, but when stereotypes enter the discussion to justify why women—or other underrepresented groups—should be fairly represented in science, it undermines the premise that we should be included simply for our scientific abilities.

“I am willing to give my colleague the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t mean any harm by his comments,” Emily Rice, an astronomer at the College of Staten Island–CUNY, told me. “Unfortunately, even well-intentioned comments are representative of the benevolent sexism that many women face every day in science. We should be valued as scientists, for our research and other contributions to the field, not by how well we conform to gender stereotypes."

Read more: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/08/20/female_scientists_piero_benvenuti_celebrate_female_astronomers_at_the_international.html

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