Happy Hours

An Evening with Angela Saini

By Sumi

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.

Screenshot of questions posted on Padlet dashboard by readers about Angela Saini’s book, “Inferior”.

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.

A capturing of locations from where our attendees were from using Menti.com

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!

Happy Hours

The First of Many Happy Hours

By Sumita Chatterjee

The Gendered Journeys project is a 3 year ESRC-funded project investigating the experiences of women in India and Rwanda entering a STEM field through higher education, graduation, and their progression into skilled employment. The project hopes to understand potential experiences, factors, and events that may be contributing to the gender inequality seen within these fields; however the project simultaneously aims to bring together a cross-disciplinary network of people to a space in which ideas, experiences, and support can be exchanged. To reflect that aim, the Gendered Journeys Happy Hour was created as a way to bring together the minds of the diverse many, in hopes to learn from, and with each other.

November 26, 2020 was the commencement of our first Happy Hour event which brought together 15 individuals residing in various parts of the UK, India, and Nigeria. These 15 individuals carried with them a knowledge base that ranged across STEM, gender identity, gender inequality, and education. The Happy Hour also brought together representatives from other research and network groups such as FemEng, UofG Phd Society, and STEM Equals, giving us the opportunity to become aware of each other, and the other resources available to us.

The evening was spent compassionately sharing our experiences with one another. Some explained their experiences of being a woman in STEM and the moments in which they came to not only see the inequalities happening to themselves, but also the moments of recognition in which they, themselves, had unknowingly enabled, and even perpetuated, the biases present. Some went on to describe their experiences of actively choosing to no longer participate in dynamics that kept them from expressing their true potential, and the backlash that came with such a choice. Others talked about their experiences of being men who have dedicated their life’s career to studying gender inequality and the negative commentary that came from their peers for being more “effeminate” as a result. This experience they described came juxtaposed with having to manage such commentary, while simultaneously actively exploring the responsibility that came with their position of privilege within such topics. For others, this came with the added intersection of sexual identity, and their feelings of extreme vulnerability as a reflection of the level of acceptance for their orientation in their society. Finally, some came to listen; to be present for those opening up, thus upholding the space for those wishing to share.

The evening ended leaving many with a smile. The event had successfully allowed connections to be formed and a wider perspective to be gained for the multitudes of experiences of those from such diverse realities. It had re-enforced the importance of open dialogue and the necessity for the presence of varicolored voices during such discussions in order for us to understand how to lift up and move forward together. Ultimately, those of us in Gendered Journeys were left feeling optimistic and hopeful that the trend of this event would extend into our future events, and that our network of people would continue to expand within the UK and internationally, thus continuing to broaden and clear the path towards more equitable and sustainable solutions.