March 18th, 2021 marked the gathering of our second Happy Hour with 21 attendees tuning in from various places. The connections formed during our first Happy Hour had rendered us full hearted and ready to collaborate with others to continue engaging in gender and STEM issues. As hoped, we were able to work with FemEng and UofG PhD Society in bringing in science journalist, Angela Saini for a short discussion on her book, Inferior. Her book, published in 2016, walks its audience through the gender bias in science research, while simultaneously questioning if any level of scientific credence can be placed in gender stereotypes.
Before meeting, we had encouraged those interested to read the book, post questions on a Padlet dashboard, and vote on other questions posted by fellow readers to give us an understanding of what topics intrigued individuals, and which question(s) had captured those the most. Using this, we were able to direct our conversation with Angela more fluidly.
The evening of our Happy Hour brought together individuals from Glasgow, Innellan, and Abuja to initially share our thoughts and give us the opportunity to ask our attendees a question that kept coming up in our minds as we read the book: Is Science democratic, and if not, can science ever be democratic? Being a group of individuals across different disciplines in STEM and social sciences, this question sparked commentary that ultimately landed on questioning what we understood “democracy” to be in the first place. The discussion seemed to have led to more questions than answers, but nonetheless brought forward the perspective of subjectivity within objectivity, a lens often obscured for those in STEM in particular.
The time for Angela to join in had come as we were ready to ask her the questions that had received the most attention. The book dives into various pieces of writings that had previously been used to justify strong distinctions between those categorized as males and females, but takes it a step further by exploring more current research into gender and sex differences at a genetic, neurologic, and physiologic level. In our time with Angela, we were able to explore topics on gender binary rhetoric, the choices we can make in how we want to to affect change, self-empathy, and the highly networked and multi-layered-ness of science through the lens of intersectionality.
Our evening with Angela Saini ended with much gratitude and food for thought. Our Happy Hour had allowed for a diverse group of individuals to come together and question our understanding of science and the realities it has pushed onto us. For some, it might have brought to light their own biases, a realization that can be difficult to face on one’s own, but within the space of the Happy Hour, is a welcoming experience that comes with the support of many. Taking the words of Angela into resonance, we hope to continue to find our allies so that we may continue to keep our minds alert and kind; so that we may affect change in the eyes of equality and empathy.
Till next time!