Sexism in Science is Still Alive
Back when I started studying chemistry at 2am in my empty apartment in a relatively big Eastern European city I never though I would end up where life has taken me. It has been six years since then and somehow, I still remember my first days as a ‘chemist’. Back in Eastern Europe I studied languages very extensively and my school was predominantly made up of female students. In the beginning I used to solve everyone’s science tests in class; it was quite fun being the only person to know how to balance equations. I moved to England 2 years after I started learning science by myself and a year after I started college a very strange realisation hit me like a brick in the head. Back at ‘home’ being a woman in science was never something rare. For 15 years prior, I had lived in a world where science was never associated with gender as much as it is where I newly found myself. In England I found myself being interrupted, being talked over, being underestimated by some male figures. However, my biggest inspiration was and still is my chemistry teacher from that time and he is male. Back then I never understood why most males were so intimidated by the fact that I was becoming a scientist.
Fast forward to the present day and I have learned a lot about the sexism that remains in science through first-hand experience. For example, a few months ago I applied for a job and went to a group interview for a position as a science teacher. During that interview I was told by 4 different employers that I was not going to be hired because they were searching for male scientists. I cried from frustration and from pain and when I went back to my flat I looked up to Rosalind Franklin’s and Maria Curie’s pictures on my wall I thought ‘that’s what they did to you, wasn’t it?’. That is what every female or someone with a different gender identity other than cis male experience in all scientific disciplines. That situation pushed me out of my rose-tinted world and into the disgusting reality that not being a cis white male was something ‘wrong’ and sexism was still facing all of us with its ugly face. Unsurprisingly, most of my professors are males.
Although there is sexism in chemistry and in every science, there is also some good news. I remember one of my lecturers saying to me, ‘We need more women in academia!’ when we were talking about my career path. It seems to me that people in science could be divided into roughly two groups: the people that stand by the sentence my professor said and see past gender identity stereotypes, and the people on the other end of the ‘acceptance spectrum’. At present it seems like acceptance has grown and we are finally pushing past the barrier that is sexism in science, but it is still there and the only way to deal with it is to raise awareness. There are always going to be people that are trying to stop women from doing great things; the difference is that this time, we are not going to let them bring us down.