“Wait wait wait wait! Ur a girl?!”
When Elise Andrew, the creator of the enormously popular Facebook Page “I F—ing Love Science” revealed on Wednesday that she is in fact female, she received thousands of comments from shocked fans and followers who simply assumed she was a dude, because only men like science.
“The entire thing has completely blown my mind. I've never kept my identity ‘secret,’ I just don't mention it every day. My name and profile are listed in the ‘about’ section, I've done numerous interviews all of which mention my age and gender,” Andrew told Yahoo! Shine. “I have no idea why it's being made a big deal of now, all I wanted was some cool names on Twitter to follow!”
The revelation came from a post with an accompanying profile photo to let her Facebook followers know she had joined Twitter. Two days later, another post acknowledging the controversy has received over 10,000 comments debating Andrew’s gender and the role of women in science.
In addition to responses of surprise and shock, many commented on Andrew’s appearance, calling her a “hottie,” a “babe,” exclaiming how attractive she was “for a science nerd.” One person asked, “shouldn’t you be wearing glasses?”
“I've had people tell me I should be happy about all the comments on my looks because so many are complimentary—they can't seem to grasp why it might make me feel uncomfortable to read thousands of comments all discussing my appearance,” Andrew told Shine. “I'm not a model, I'm not an actress. I just want to share cool science stuff with people.”
The discussion on Andrew’s Facebook page is a perfect example of gender bias and discrimination in the field. “Across 34 countries, 70 percent of people are quicker to associate male terms with science than female terms," according to a study published in 2009 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This unconscious bias may suppress the hiring of women in scientific careers," Stanford University neurobiologist Jennifer Raymond wrote in a Nature op-ed.
Though women make up half of the country's doctorates in science and engineering, their education isn't translating into a career. Only 21 percent of science professors are women and five percent engineering professors, according to The Huffington Post.
“Some of the comments have genuinely shocked me. Most are just low-level surprise and a lot of people have been very supportive, but it's certainly opened my eyes to how ingrained gender stereotyping is. I honestly couldn't tell you the NAMES of most of my favorite bloggers, let alone their gender. It's just not something that occurs to me, I'm there for the information,” Andrew said.
But perhaps admitting that there is in fact a bias is the first step to defeating it. If there were any doubts about the discrimination that women face in these fields, the kerfuffle on Andrew’s Facebook page should put those to rest.
But despite the ongoing discrimination against women in science, there's a thriving community of female science writers on the web. The Committee on Women, Science, and Engineering has a list of the 50 “must-read” female bloggers in science and engineering, Online Universities.com has a helpful list of female science bloggers organized by category, and Discover magazine’s favorite female science bloggers includes Rebecca Skloot, the author “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” SciCurious, who has weekly “Friday Weird Science” posts, Pulitzer Prize winner Deborah Blum, and many more.
Andrew’s “I F—king Love Science,” is one of the most popular science websites by any blogger, male or female. The page has 4.2 million “likes” on Facebook.
Related on Shine:
Women Have Higher IQs Than Men, Says Science
Pharmacist is Highest Earning Job for Women
The Most Common Job for Women in 2013? Secretary (Just Like in the 1950s!)