Midpoint Series: Betsey Adams on Why We Care

This guest post from Betsey Adams is part of the 2012 Midpoint Series. See all of the posts in the series here.

It may seem silly to you – why are we raising such a fuss over one little thing? After all, it’s just a Doodle every once in a while. But it’s not just that: the lack of representation of women in Google Doodles is one symptom of a larger issue. It’s one of the myriad ways that I’m constantly reminded that I’m a woman in a male-dominated field.

It’s the same as when someone walks into my office for help with a science problem and asks my male colleagues but ignores me — but then they come looking for me when they need help with something administrative. It’s having to prove I’m smart to professors before they treat me as a colleague, when they immediately accept my male peers. It’s the endless remarks about how women can’t do math or are irrational or just want babies. It’s the thousand little reminders every day that I’m not as good because I’m female (or that I’m “good for a woman,” but not good). The reminder that no matter how hard I work, I’ll never be equal.

The reality is that, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, women still struggle for equality. There are a whole host of reasons for this – I’m not claiming Google Doodles are single-handedly responsible or can fix the problem. But one of the big impediments to participation of women in STEM fields is the fact that, from an early age, women are surrounded by the message that math and science are for boys, not girls. (Importantly, boys who will grow up to be the colleagues of women scientists hear and internalize this, too). And Google Doodles are perpetuating this message. At a time when “Google” is synonymous with “search the Internet,” Google has an amazing platform for reaching large swaths of the world’s population. The fact that the platform is typically only used to highlight the accomplishments of men reinforces the message that men change the world and women just follow. This isn’t just true of Doodles relating to science & engineering, but of ALL the Doodles Google has been posting – whether they’re honoring a physicist, a composer, or an artist. Google’s message isn’t just that science and math are the domain of men, but that everything important is done by men.

I think it’s a shame that Google doesn’t want to show half of our population that they too can make an impact and change the world. There are many amazing women who have made an impact on our society. Google could choose to highlight these women and allow them to serve as role models and inspiration for a future generation. And the fact that they choose not to makes me feel, yet again, dismissed out of hand simply for being a woman.

— Betsey Adams

Betsey Adams at the Arecibo ObservatoryBetsey studies the smallest galaxies she can find. In her free time, Betsey likes to run, hike, climb and raise a fuss about representation issues in astronomy. You can find her on Twitter @betseeeey.


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