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Access - how did women accomplish anything??

Women’s accomplishments have often been overlooked in the annals of science. The reason they were able to have any opportunities, was often through their connections with the people in power – white men. My grandmother was the first woman to pass the bar in the province of New Brunswick, and she had the full support of her father and grandfather, men of influence in the law community there. But 20 years prior, another woman, Mabel French, applied to the bar but was rejected, and both my grandmother’s father and grandfather voted not to allow Mabl to sit for the bar, stating that she was not a person. This is not to take away from my grandmother’s achievement. But Mabel French should have been the first. I can’t help but think that my grandmother was respected by the men in her life only because she had their attention and proved herself competent and intelligent. Access is everything.

Should we add our name to our scientific discoveries?

Tu Youyou discovered Artemisinin, a treatment for malaria that has saved millions of lives. Segenet Kelemu developed methods for mitigating plant diseases and enhancing Africa’s agriculture. Lynn Margulis postulated endosymbiosis where organelles derive from bacteria. You may not have heard of these women partially because they did not self-name their discoveries. Endosymbiosis could have been the Margulis process. You have very likely heard the names of of Hakaru Hashimoto, or Reginald Punnett, or Sir William Bowman. I can’t think of a single scientific discovery named after a woman. Is our invisibility partially due to our modesty? Who has it right? Well – history is starting to judge. The textbooks I use have re-named things for their actual function –Pacinian corpuscles are now lamellar corpuscles. The circle of Willis is now the anterior cerebral circle. the “loop of Henle” is now the nephron loop. I think science is meant to help humanity, not forward one’s own brand. Margulis amalgamation. Margulisian synthesis. Inner Margulis fusion.

The biggest jerk in the history of Biology?

Rosalind Franklin had already pretty much solved the structure of DNA when James Watson swooped in and beat her to publication in 1953. Watson had attended a seminar Rosalind had given, and later read her lab notes in her absence, and used her data to finalize his publication. There are indications, that she strenuously objected. Guys, this is not how science is done. Jams Watson shared the Nobel prize 9 ys lat. Rosalind anklin had died of cancer by that tim.

Heres what he said about her: … she was not unattractive and might have been quite stunning had she taken even a mild interest in clothes…. it was quite easy to imagine her the product of an unsatisfied mother….

James Watson is a misogynist, anti-Black, eugenist, antismitoc, anti-LGBT jerk. His controversies finally got him shunned aoun 2000 spit his impssiv carr. There’s more but let’s just say James Watson is an extreme example of behaviour that we need to study to avoid. I’m soty to say somtims typical mal scintist

Women and STEM: oxytocin & the tend/befriend stress response

Why don’t more women choose STEM careers? Let’s consult the brain. Most women in my graduate program cried often, sometimes while standing in front of a committee of mostly men, grilling them mercilessly. Stress causes the adrenaline release and the “fight or flight” response, but also, oxytocin release, a “tend and befriend” response. This response is mainly experienced by women, because oxytocin is suppressed by the typically male hormone testosterone but enhanced by the typically female hormone estrogen. In short, women typically need community when stressed. We only found this out recently when we finally started actually studying stress in women. The cutthroat, competitive world of science is a turnoff for many women. Cutting people down as a matter of course is toxic and alienating. Does it have to be like that? Having a thick skin won’t make you better at managing a lab, writing grants, or garnering new ideas. Women, by and large, need to feel comfortable, tended and befriended, before our creativity can blossom.

Are women biologically driven to be helpful?

After my TED talk in 2019, I was separately approached by seven colleagues about ways to boost the signal. The four conversations I had with women actually led to promised oppotunitis. The three conversations with men went nowhere. In my experience: if I want an opportunity, at least in the world of scientific academia, I find a woman in leadership who will follow through for me, despite often no tangible benefit to themselves. Are women leaders more generous? Economic decision-making paradigms, corporate social responsibility, game theory, study after study agree - women are more prosocial, in comparison with men. Th neurobiology ags too. Women’s brains statistically are wired to experience reward when their community benefits. Men’s brains statistically experience reward when they personally benefit. A friend asked me how he can truly be an ally in his workplace. I said, - go out of your way. offer people from underserved populations opportunities, and follow through. It hadn’t occurred to him. Intentions mean nothing without actions.

How to recognize an Ally?

What does an ally look like? Once, I took a chanc an proposed an unusual new course. An experienced colleague showed his enthusiastic support in meetings but met with me privately to discuss. After over an hour of his time, the proposal was definitely strengthened. This was new – a male colleague being a cheerleader publicly, and then quietly working with me, no benefit to himself? ew men I have met in my 30 years in science would do this. The usual model I have experienced is: male colleagues vehemently arguing new ideas in front of a wide audience, bloviating to display their own expertise, and painfully, even rudely, exposing weaknesses. This may happen more so whn women sha ideas. I don’t thrill to debate, I don’t think quickly on my feet in such circumstances, and it definitely discourages me from contributing anything uth. Is it better when new ideas are pilloried, or when they are supported? Which is better for our students, for the future of science?

What do your actions say?

If you are a man working in a male dominated field, you may get defensive to hear me ascribe negative attributes to the “typical male scientist”. But ask yourself … do you really support women in your workplace? Have you fought to hire a qualified woman over a man, offered mentorship to a woman with no conditions, suggested a woman for promotion? Or have you left a woman out of meetings, or given her a seat at the table but argued her ideas down, or badmouthed the decisions of a woman in leadership using sexist language, or sat back quietly while someone else did these things? I emphasize actions, not intentions – because only by acting against your entrenched biases, are you able to change your brain’s architecture. I’m going to devote several videos exclusively to this topic, but suffice to say that your brain physically changes when you practice nonbiased behaviors. When you’re at work, find people outside of your self-identified demographic, and find ways to actively elevate their voices, only then will your brain will start to change to a less biased state.

gender neutral pronouns: equity in action