Image courtesy of Nasa: Jeanette Epps
The most valuable commodity in the world is human intellect. We can’t dig it up, refine it, and put it on the market in a quick just-in-time product stream. Intellect, in all its forms, requires discovery, shaping, honing, and continued usage. Whether a person excels in spacial, verbal, social, political, mathematical, educational, technological, or musical aspects of understanding the world, each individual must be given a safe, welcoming environment to sharpen the intellect to its fullest. Doing otherwise is burning scare resources and delaying advancement.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) has been throwing away millions of IQ points a year with their neglect, nay, their criminal abuse of women, especially women of color. In a field where “nerdy geeks” rule, women have been kicked out of the treehouse. Half of humanity actively discouraged from participation, and people wonder why we don’t have flying cars and we aren’t living on Mars?
July 2017 released study created from interviewing 474 astronomers and planetary scientist revealed Doctorate level women scared to attend conferences or participate in field research. Let me repeat that – women our society has trained to be the best, invested over 20 years of education, because of PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE cannot attend intellectual exchanges or go to isolated locations with their co-workers because they fear for their physical and mental health. Really, WTF? (See “Women of Color Face a Staggering Amount of Harassment in Astronomy“)
Last year #MeToo had a month of buzz on Facebook and social media as woman after woman spoke about her personal experiences. I include some of my experiences along that line in “Blog: Made Me Look“. Shortly after the month of #MeToo, the celebrity circle suffered a “witch hunt” (as some called it) of improper sexual behavior accusations. Most women I know just blinked and muttered “about time.” The long-standing joke of “sleeping on the casting bed” had its covers pulled back.
Sexual harassment costs society brains, women who choose not to go into fields where only men live. Women cautiously refusing life in the military, avoiding writing because of backlash, staying home from conferences instead of sharing papers.
Maybe a part of your brain is whispering “good”, maybe another part of you has cancer which a woman who could have discovered a life-saving cure in your lifetime never entered the field after threats were made in her pre-med classes.
Yes, someone is likely to figure it out. After all, science is just a study of the world and discovering how it works. Eventually a solution can be found. Depending on how many people are looking, “eventually” can be minutes or decades away.
Pushing half the people out of the STEM treehouse is beyond stupid.
A quick perspective of how making the scientific community hostile to women and people of color affect research: ORCID – A non-profit research organization with 1 million registered scientists is 33% women. The number of women in the organization would need to MORE THAN DOUBLE to achieve parity of gender.**
You can’t get those numbers overnight.
Not even in astronomy.
So how do we help those that can’t help themselves? Provide inspiration.
People emulate what they see in fiction. Having Uhura on the Enterprise bridge inspired hundreds, thousands of people – women and people of color.
Writers can provide a face for people to see in fields they never thought to try. Make people question how the world should work. Point them in a direction.
WRITING EXERCISE: Write a STEM flash with a woman of color as a positive protagonist. Be sure she has the strongest agency in the story and not a front for a different member of the cast.
READING EXERCISE: Find a biography or autobiography of a woman or person of color who had been in space and read it.
Wikipedia has the following astronaut lists
Women: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_female_astronauts (include US, Soviet, Chinese, Korea, Italy, India, and more)
And you can go here to find the Arab, Jewish, and Muslim lists as well as by country splits: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_astronauts
** Statistics calculation – 33 doubled is 66. Divide 66 by 100+33 (66/133) and you only got 49%.