Erasure in the Scientific World

I don’t often blog in anger (who’m I kidding 😂) here we go again…

I came across this article today. Apparently, it was a necessary evil to mark down women’s scores. I’d love to think this was a one off, but I know that this can be pretty much standard.

I recently had an ‘interesting’ conversation with a colleague following my discovery of the book Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier which had followed hot on the heels of my watching a short video by BBCTeach on Mary Anning. Beforehand, I’d not heard of this extraordinary woman, nor her mentor Elizabeth Philpot.

Now under normal circumstances, this would not be a surprise, but for me, this is not a normal circumstance. I want to be clear that I am a Mackem lass, through and through, I have very little experience of ‘down south’ and embarrassingly I’ve never visited the Jurassic Coast, although I’ve read an awful lot about it, in my studies.

I studied geology at university. My lecturers believed that teaching us the history of our chosen subject was incredibly important. We studied the greats, Buckland, Hutton, and Lyell, who were contemporaries of Anning and Philpot. We talked and studied ‘The Evolution of Geological Thought’, an altogether fascinating subject in itself, but never once mentioned Philpot or Anning, whose achievements were all the more extraordinary for the period they lived in, since The Geological Society didn’t admit women until 1919.

I first came to understand the challenges Women in STEM face via the Sciencegrrl report, which is quite honestly long and takes quite some time to read! Part of the issue is the gendering of subjects, toys and clothes, with girls being subconsciously steered in one direction, and boys another.

I find it bizarre that geology in general, and certainly ‘dinosaurs are seen as primarily for boys’, (if you don’t believe me, check out the dinosaur range at George for Asda) when the founding parent of the subject was female. But then, she was practically erased from history, rarely mentioned or credited by the men who took over her works.

When I studied geology, there were thirty students in my year group. It was the peak of the Jurassic Park era, universities were specifically offering courses in Geology with Palaeontology to attract students. I was one of seven females on the course. Can you imagine how the gender balance might have been if Anning and Philpot were in regular conversation?

Even after a reasonably successful career (to date), I’m assumed to be a nurse of a teacher, because I’m female professional. (Please note, I have a huge amount of respect for both career paths, but you honestly couldn’t convince me to join either profession, I also have enough self awareness to know that I would be spectacularly bad at both!).

I can’t describe the influence a figure like Mary Anning would have had to my life and career. Going forward, I know I will be heavily influenced by the working class girl from Lyme Regis who turned the whole scientific world on its head and had the self belief to challenge some of the greatest minds of the time.

We need to be proud of ALL our trailblazing fore-bearers, it’s our duty to strike the gender balance for all our children. Who knows where the next Mary Anning, Mae Jemison, Marie Curie or Grace Darling will pop up?

Published by lentilweaver

I’m not a saint, I’m more of a sinner. I’m just doing my best like everyone else. I don’t believe that massive changes can be made overnight, but baby steps... they can make a HUGE difference, to everyone. Home of #sharkweek by #nanasue and lover of #cats Don’t forget to check out my Etsy store!

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