5 Outrageous Examples of Sexism That Discourage Women From Careers in STEM
It’s no surprise that women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It’s also no surprise how sexist STEM fields are given the gender imbalance and “boy’s club” mentality. Maybe that’s why after only one year on the job, women are far more likely to call it quits.
While there have been numerous attempts to get girls interested in STEM from a young age and to get women to pursue such careers, these examples have definitely missed the mark.
1. Pinup Magazines
To be honest, when this new tech magazine hit the digital shelves I thought it was a joke. Claiming “We Make Tech Sexy” with a woman’s legs pictured with a thong at her ankles, I really didn’t think this was serious.
Turns out I was wrong.
The digital magazine, Hot Tech Today, juxtaposes tech industry news with scantily clad “hotties” shown mostly in bikinis with their company logo of course. Hot Tech also has a monthly competition for the coveted spot of centerfold where “hotties” of the tech industry are invited to submit their pictures.
Despite the obvious criticism of her Maxim/Playboy hybrid magazine, the company’s CEO, Erica Williams, is adamant that Hot Tech Today is not demeaning towards women. In an open letter to women in the tech industry Williams says:
I challenge anyone to find anything in Hot Tech Today, be it in our articles, videos, or photo spreads, that in any way demeans or belittles anyone. Do we embrace sexuality? Absolutely! Is sexuality a bad thing? We and millions of others think not. I’m confident that nothing we’ve said, done, or published in any way reflects negatively on women working in the tech industries.
Challenge accepted; you need look no further than their first YouTube video to find ample examples of sexism:
Clearly, Hot Tech Today was not created for the average tech woman reader, but instead to tap into the overwhelming number of men in tech who they assume want to see half naked women with their news. This isn’t just insulting to women, but to men in the industry who value their women colleagues. I couldn’t of put it better than Ellie Dawes who on the Huffington Post said:
You [Hot Tech Today] have made an assumption that my friends and family want their tech news with a big side-helping of misogyny. You have assumed they see women as objects to decorate their desktop backgrounds, not as fellow tech consumers, enthusiasts and colleagues. You are wrong about them. It’s not just the women who like technology who can see your bullshit for what it is, it is all of us.
Similar to Hot Tech Today’s attempts to make tech sexy, CodeBabes, is an educational coding site that uses the lure of babes to make coding sexy. The website boasts, “The internet, awesome for learning to code…checking out babes…separately until now” and “We’re hot but learning to code is hotter.”
The “awesome” courses run from “virgin” to intermediate and advanced, all picturing women with less and less clothing. See, the idea is that the sexy schoolgirl codebabes teach you how to code while removing their clothing to make the learning less boring and more fun.
Like Hot Tech Today’s pinup centerfolds, you’d think this is a joke but so far it seems like CodeBabes is actually serious and not intentionally meaning to be offensive. As they say on their site, “If we’ve offended anyone, that’s really not our goal, we hope there are bigger problems in the world for people to worry about.”
The problem is that sexism in STEM is a big problem, and by sexualizing women as they have with CodeBabes they are making it an even bigger problem.
3. Sexxing Up Your Scientific Journal
Turns out making STEM sexy isn’t just for new digital magazines and websites like Hot Tech Today and CodeBabes.
Now we are even seeing these types of sexxing up gimmicks in academic publications like The Journal of Proteomics which pictured a woman holding up two coconuts against her likely bare chest next to a paper titled “Harry Belafonte and the secret of the coconut milk proteome.”
This isn’t the first time something of this nature has happened resulting in the nickname The Journal of “Broteomics.”
The offending picture has since been taking down, but having such sexist undertones sneak their way even into academia is alarming.
4. Titstare & Masturbation
At this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference, sexism was one of the biggest things on display.
The first example came from a presentation of a new app invented after an all night hackathon. The app, called Titstare, is an app where you take pictures of yourself staring at tits. “I think this is the breast hack ever,” said Jethro Batts, one of the programmers presenting, about the new app.
The second sexist display came from another app created during the hackathon which was a game where you compete with your friends over who can shake their phone the fastest. In explaining the game the presenter simulated masturbation on stage complete with sound effects.
What’s worse? A 9-year-old girl in the audience with her father had to witness both presentations.
TechCrunch has since issued an apology for the misogynistic presentations:
Sexism is a major problem in the tech industry, and we’ve worked hard to counteract it in our coverage and in our own hiring. You expect more from us, and we expect more from ourselves. We are sorry.
Regardless of whether a young girl was in the audience, these presentations contribute to the “boy’s club” mentality we need to be breaking down in STEM, not building up.
5. Sexist Hate Mail
“I’d still totally do her.”
“She just needs some sexier glasses.”
“I can’t stop looking at her nose. It looks so weird. It kind of makes her look like a nerdy pig.”
“Emily, even though the clothes are you are wearing kind of disguise it, you look like you might be pretty hot under them. Perhaps you should consider wearing slightly racier clothing. Besides obviously pleasing to straight males and gay females, it might boost your self-esteem.”
Such are comments that Emily Graslie, one of the few women on YouTube making education STEM videos, receives daily. You might think the implications of such comments from anonymous people are harmless but they pack a personal punch and contribute to the sexism that runs rampant in STEM fields.
You can watch Emily talk about sexism in the STEM industry here:
Watch the whole thing! After all these offensive examples, Graslie’s real talk about being a woman in the STEM industry is enlightening and leaves me hopeful that women like her will pave a better way for my future daughter.
Are you a woman in STEM? Have you experienced sexism or harassment in your industry? Please share in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!
Photo Credit: Thinkstock