If you ever come on a ride with the UC Davis cycling team, be prepared to talk about sex, cycling, and being a woman in science. Today we are discussing women in science.
Whether we talk about experiments, coursework, writing papers, or qualifying exams, it all seems to come back to being a woman in a science field. What better time to word vomit about our experiences than the occasion of this article published in the New York Times:
It is long, but we highlighted our three favorite (and most relatable) points:
(1) Females systematically underestimate their abilities when compared to males. One anecdote provided in this article described a professor at Yale whose undergraduate female advisee felt she was not qualified enough to apply for a graduate program in physics, despite earning wildly successful marks in her classes. The professor replied that many male students with B averages were asking her for recommendation letters to grad school.
In a female dominated profession, the playing field is leveled when all participants assess their capabilities by similar metrics. But in male dominated fields women are at a disadvantage when we consistently undervalue our abilities in relation to our competitors.
(2) Sexy women scientists are unicorn like myths. (Although we encourage all readers out there to Google Image “sexy woman scientists.” We hope you are amused as much as we were by the microscope photo shoot.) In all seriousness, it’s really flippin’ hard to present yourself as both smart and feminine. If you come off as too sexy, no one will take your work seriously. Apparently (according to the NYTimes article) Western Europeans are much more sensible about this. But we’re pretty sure this is because French people never have to choose between sexy OR something else. It’s sexy AND something else. All of the time. Your morning baguette? Sexy. That book you’re reading for intro chem? Super sexy. In North America, sex is left to the bedroom, or the dance floor, or early morning training rides. (Wait, does that sound like we have sex on our training rides? FALSE. We haven’t mastered that yet, but we’ll keep you updated.)
(3) The data do not lie. There are systematic biases against females in the sciences, as evidenced by male and female faculty members who consistently gave lower ratings to female resumes even when they were identical to male counterparts.
On a final note – if you thought this post was shrill and feminist, GET READY TO RUMBLE. Because while we are introspective and contemplative regarding how women are treated in the sciences, we are really fucking pissed about how females are marginalized in the cycling world. That will feed a whole series of posts.