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Once again, women reduced to their reproductive organs

February 17, 2012, 9:42 am

In the days leading up to ScienceOnline 2012, a blogger who was irritated at the lack of childcare options at the conference tweeted something like the following (I am paraphrasing — except for the bolded part):

Scio12 needs to consider providing more child care so that more women and dads could attend.

Women. And dads. Not moms and dads, but women and dads. Because, you know, all women have children, right?

Similarly, just about every report I’ve ever seen on women in science/women in academia concludes that the best way to increase the number of women in science and academia is to provide better daycare and flexibility for mothers.

I agree that more family-friendly policies would benefit many women and help level the playing field between men and women. But there’s so much more to be done. For example, when the journal Behavioral Ecology instituted double-blind peer review, the number of articles first-authored by women went up significantly. I have worked with some very prominent women scientists and watched them get consistently overlooked in favor of men for various awards. On a regular basis I am the only woman present in a room full of men, who seem to be completely unable to think of any women faculty members who should be included in their decision-making processes.

I recognize and respect that most adult women do choose to have children, and that in many ways I have it easier than most female academics. But I am so tired of seeing women’s inequality in academia be reduced to the fact that women have babies. Not all of us have children, and we still face bias and drop out of this leaky pipeline. I am tired of being invisible, and being made so by people who should know better.

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