A sucky week to be a woman in science: Part I

Usually I don’t find it too sucky to be a Woman in Science™. This is the first in a series of 3 posts on why this week, it was a bit sucky.

The Royal Australian Chemical Institute published in the June edition of their monthly magazine, Chemistry in Australia, a very poor and unfunny joke.  As I am wont to do, I tweeted about it.

I was sufficiently peeved by this Grade A sexist bullshittery that I also wrote a letter to the editor. I received a prompt response and the online version of the article has had the offending sentence removed. I’m waiting with keen interest to receive a follow-up from the editor and to see what the official response from the RACI will be.

Since joining as an undergrad I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my professional society. At the grassroots level, I’ve found RACI run and sponsored events to be excellent learning and networking opportunities, and fulfilled many of my expectations of what being part of a learned society should be. I’ve made many connections and drunk many beers and had a generally grand time at most of them.

But after 12 years of membership, I’m seriously considering not renewing this year. This issue could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. While I’ve had many positive experiences with individual members, the organisation as a whole has never felt entirely welcoming to me. It’s always felt male and I’m a woman. It’s always felt old and I’m young(ish). It’s always felt ivory tower and I’m outside academia. And I no longer feel like I want to try be a part of it.

I’m struggling to think of any benefits in continuing to be a member of this organisation. The aspects of the RACI that I find valuable, the events and conferences, will continue to be accessible and affordable even if I cease my membership. But the aspects of the RACI that I find deplorable and disappointing show no signs of changing and I’m no longer convinced that I want to support it with my membership dollars.


5 Comments on “A sucky week to be a woman in science: Part I”

  1. martin says:

    I’ve been a member of the RACI for over 30 years. I keep paying the fees but I’m also now wondering if it’s worth it. I’ve not taken advantage of cheaper conference registration rights for many years. Indeed sadly I haven’t been to a national convention for 16 years. My local one-day symposium is one that until recently always attended so I received reduced rates we are. Or rather my employer received a reduced rate for sending me there. But now due to ill health I’ve not been able to even do that. All I currently get out of it is the monthly magazine and a certain sense of belonging to a community. But comments like this in the magazine seriously make me doubt that this community is still one I want to be in.

  2. drbh says:

    I hear you and whole-heartedly agree with your post.

    I have also seen this blog comment on an amazingly professional plenary talk delivered by a male scientist at an RACI conference, and merely reduce it to his biceps.

    Sexism goes both ways. There’s never an excuse. Let’s continue to educate people to make a change.

    • Renee says:

      Thanks for your comment.There are two key differences here.
      1. This is my blog, and I am representing me. I do not speak for any group or organisation.
      Chemistry in Australia on the other hand is a publication of the national professional society representing chemists in this country, and has a responsibility to maintain high standards of professionalism.

      2. Nobody judges or takes Phil Baran less seriously because of his biceps. But a woman’s competency is judged based on her appearance every day. Objectification of men is not perpetuating the idea of only being worthy based on appearance.

      • drbh says:

        As I said, I agree with your original post. No argument.

        However, I can’t agree with your second point, and I think your comments highlight the need for educating both sexes. We shouldn’t condone any person being objectified, regardless of sex, particularly when they present themselves in a professional forum.

        I guess we’ll wait to see how CiA (officially) responds.


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