Girls with Toys

[Here’s an article published in Slate from a female scientist who has organized a campaign to highlight the role of women in science and technology using the hashtag #girlswithtoys.]

#GirlsWithToys chemist working in laboratory

When people reinforce the “boys with toys” stereotype, they obscure all the hard work so many scientists of every gender are doing. Photo by Thinkstock

By Kate Clancy

When people reinforce the “boys with toys” stereotype, they obscure all the hard work so many scientists of every gender are doing.

On Saturday morning, I turned on NPR while I made breakfast for my daughter and me. We had a big day ahead: first the farmers market, then a nearby forest preserve’s migratory bird festival featuring a mist-netting demonstration and the chance to take home and dissect your own owl pellet.

I listened to Scott Simon introduce a piece in a series called Joe’s Big Idea, which is intended to explore “how ideas become innovations and inventions.” The piece was about a scientist, and I’m a scientist, so of course my ears perked up as Joe Palca interviewed Caltech astrophysicist Shrinivas Kulkarni. It started on a great note: Palca asked Kulkarni what is beyond the universe, and they had a conversation on abstract versus practical questions in astronomy. Then, Kulkarni made a statement that is getting a lot of attention.

Kulkarni: “Many scientists are I think, secretly, are what I call ‘boys with toys.’”

Palca: “Boys with toys.”

Kulkarni: “And I think there’s nothing wrong with that, except—“

Palca: “Boys with toys.”

Kulkarni: “—you’re not supposed to say that.”

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