Where are the female science bloggers?

Jan 27 2011 Published by under Activism, Uncategorized

There's been a great conversation going on in the blogsphere over the past few days about blogging as a woman. I hear I'm a woman, so it's rather natural that I've got some interest in this. One of the things I found particularly interesting is that people don't seem to KNOW that female science bloggers are even THERE! I saw lots of comments like this (on Christie's most excellent post about being a woman science blogger):

This post made me examine my own blog choices. On my RSS feed (which includes 10) and those to which I don't subscribe but check regularly (which adds another 10), you are one of two female bloggers and the only female science blogger. In fact, I couldn't even name another female science blogger! I was (and am) dismayed by this discovery. Time to revise my reading habits...

And other bloggers (like Stephanie's excellent take, as well as the brilliant Kate Clancy, who's promotion of this topic has been inspiring) have noted that women science bloggers just...don't seem to promote.

Well. Let's change that. Let's self-promote! And male science bloggers? Promote us! Cause whether or not we are female, many of us are DANG good writers.

PEOPLE! I'M OVER HERE!! AND MY BLOG IS AWESOME!


(Source. Also, I'd like to note that I felt distinctly weird standing up and shouting "my blog is awesome", because I really do react badly to tooting my own horn at all. Telling.)

And there are loads of OTHER excellent female science bloggers. In fact there's an entire list available at the Guardian, though it is by no means complete. Not only that, there's a friendfeed, where you can follow female science bloggers. So get out there, look for us, and read up! We're here and we're good, and we shouldn't stay invisible.

40 responses so far

  • Stephanie Z says:

    You are teh awesome. Duh.

    My post mentioned the list problem using the most obvious missing female, but it was pretty disturbing when the humor panel opened up for suggestions of funny people and you didn't get mentioned before the mike stopped being passed around. That was actually what made me look at who people were recommending. You're always high on my list of examples for accessibility and humor.

    • scicurious says:

      Heh, you know I noticed that, too, that I didn't get a mention. I was all sad. :( Obviously I need to promote more.

      "I'm funny!" *does dance* "I write poetry about urine and write posts about sperm whale DP! Really!!!"

      • Daniel Lende says:

        Sounds like you have your opening schtick for next year...

        Still, the emphasis on women who have to "promote" doesn't address the depth and breadth of the whole problem. "Oh, you have to do even more, then maybe you'll get more mentions... " I do think the promotion helps, but obviously more going on - as so many of you have pointed out.

        In any case, here's to dang good writers!

        • scicurious says:

          Oh absolutely promotion only part of the issue, I think there's also a lot of unconscious bias. I'm thinking of ways to address this, actually...gimme some time. :)

  • Daniel Lende says:

    Just wanted to say - your blog is awesome!

  • Ed Yong says:

    Yawn. Old news. I knew you were awesome WAY before you figured it out ;-p

  • Sci, I also think you are teh awesome. With sauce.

    I'm a female blogger too! My science blog is newish, though. I've gone from pseudonym crafty blog to blogging under my real name on a network (but about sci careers, not science), to finally updating my own science blog. I've been partially inspired by that women in bogging Science Online panel, and partially to try to help me get over some horrible writers block I've been having. (Not working. Pity.)

    I think I've been doing okay at screaming HEY EVERYBODY GO READ MY DAMN BLOG, but we could probably all do better. And I definitely need to update my blogroll, to put in more kickass women science bloggers.

  • Dorothea says:

    HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THE FRIENDFEED ROOM.

    Yeesh. Subscribed!

  • Bashir says:

    Maybe it's because the first blog I read was FSP and I initially went from her links but I seen to have nothing but female science bloggers. I should update my blog roll, not that I drive much traffic.

  • Coturnix says:

    You were awesome before you started the blog. You were awesome at the precise moment when you started the blog. And you have been awesome ever since ;-)

  • Sci, you are totes awesome. But I completely understand reservations about tooting one's own horn. I demur when people compliment my blog or a particular post.

    Just a quick note on the #wsb friendfeed: A few of us are helping Kate with maintaining and updating the feeds. We know there are some errors, some broken links, and undoubtedly many great blogs missing. If you note any discrepancies or you're a female science blogger and want to be added, send an email to womenscienceblogs@gmail.com or message one of the admins. The feed is very much a community effort!

    Oh, and go check out my blog, people :P

  • drugmonkey says:

    I gotta say I do not get all this pixel churning. I've always had a ton of women bloggers in my feeds and on my daily/weekly stops. There are lots of blogs authored by women. Lots.

    What this seems to be about is a perception that there are no women bloggers who seem to have the very tippy-top cachet/audience as is perceived for Ed Yong or that tattoo guy. OR pick some other unique flower of very high buzz factor in the blogosphere.

    Are you kidding me?

    The dearth of a female version of Ed is not attributable to women bloggers being "ignored". It is attributable to the fact that nobody male or female does what Ed does. The breadth, the accessible writing, the attention to craft, the post rate and the all-out promotion. Nobody.

    You want evidence of attention ? Look what Isis pulled off with that UCD Vet school story. National teevee came a callin on that one ffs! It can be done.

    The topic has to be of sufficient general interest though. There will be one-offs for those with highly targeted (e.g. limited) topic domains that get boingslashed or wtfever. but for a huge following, this requires a broad topical appeal.

    I'd like to see those complaining about how they are "ignored" describe why their blogging is of sufficiently broad interest to get beyond a core audience.

    • scicurious says:

      I would say it just seems odd that when "top 10" lists are asked for...there are often no female bloggers on them. For example, people have been talking a lot about how great Skloot is, and yet she is not considered a top 10 blogger. I don't think that's a particularly good example, but what about Deborah Blum and Jennifer Oullette? These two women have both written great books, and write excellent blogs, and yet when I ask people for their top 10 blogger lists...they often get forgotten. In wikio you have to go down to #21 to get to the first woman. Does this mean that there are no female bloggers at all that are as good as anyone in the top 20? I find it hard to believe that's the case.

      I'm not saying we should all become Ed, it is true that no one does what Ed does (hi Ed!). But when we make "best of" lists we include more people who do different types of blogging, and often women still don't make it on there.

      In subfields like neuroscience, if you look for top 10 lists (I just ran a quick search, see here), the vast majority of blogs listed are by men, often there's only one or two blogs written by a woman. But far more than 10%-20% of neuroscience bloggers are women. Mine often doesn't make it on there. I'm not going to say I'm the be all end all of neuroscience blogging, but I do think I rank well with Mind Hacks and NeuroLogica. Similarly, when people are asked to list humorous blogs (as happened in the Geek session at #scio11), blogs by women did not come up, including mine. I may not be the funniest thing on the internet, but I do some funny stuff, and I was even THERE physically. I just got forgotten. Being mentioned here does not mean getting beyond a "core" audience, and it shows that I am not being mentioned even in fields in which my blog fits. Maybe I am in reality a much worse blogger than I think?

      Ed and Carl's blogs came up as being in the tip top of the science blogsphere for representative purposes, and focusing on trying to make one of us the "next" Ed would not be the best way to change the way people rank things, but I still think that there are questions to be asked as to why female science bloggers don't make a lot of the top 10 lists. I think Isis is an excellent example of someone who has broken through there, and I hope that there will be lots of other women who will follow in her beautifully clad footsteps.

      • Stephanie Z says:

        Quick correction, Sci: It was the humor session that I was surprised your name wasn't mentioned. I used you as an example (exploiting the universal interest in sex) in the Geek session.

        Otherwise, what you said.

        • scicurious says:

          Eeep yes, sorry! I was even RIGHT THERE. But session was videoed so I didn't really want to speak right out.

  • becca says:

    Tacky, DM, tacky.
    Alternate world version of DM: "I gotta say, I do not get all these awards for womenz/women in science societies/articles in journals about career/life balance. I've always had a ton of women scientists in my labs, and even all the departments I give lectures at. The majority of people in labs are probably women. There is lots of science done by women. Lots."

    Rest of the world to alternate world version of DM: "Yeah, but what about professors?"

    Look DM, Sci's blog is like eleventy million times more accessible and of general interest than your NIH insider baseball shenanigans. Your perspective, I think, is based on the assumption that it's impossible to make a living as a writer, and that blogging is therefore generally in the realm of 'hobby'. In that context, what Ed and Carl do is exceptional- not just because of their considerable talent, but because of the sheer *scope* of it- they are the pros.

    Frankly, I think Sci's writing is easily good enough to 'go pro'. In fact, it may even have a more general appeal, because she's slanted to 'fun' topics (I'm convinced there's nothing like sex and drugs for getting people into science). I think if she didn't have a freakin dayjob the post frequency would naturally go up. And maybe if she viewed it as her career, self-promotion would come more easily? Or maybe it wouldn't. Which brings us back to why there are so-few-women-professionals- in any field that requires the particular risk taking of aggressive self promotion. For shame, DM, for shame.

  • Just out of curiosity, I went through my RSS blogges subscriptions and counted those that are authored by women. In the case of blogges with multiple authors, some men and some women, I based the gender attribution on the "head blogger" (e.g., Balloon Juice = male, Pandagon = female).

    I subscribe to 82 blogges, and 37 of them are authored or headed by women. And getting back to the "humor" issue, I find the blogges written by women to be a fucktonne funnier on average than those written by men.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Yo becca, Sci's blog is more popular than mine for exactly this reason- scope and natural audience. Now if I spent all my time talking about cannabis maybe it would be a different story. Audience scope is the issue. That and GREAT, not good, not funny, not Writer'sWorkshop (hi szvan!), GREAT writing. Not many of us even sniff at that standard.

    Blum's book is great but the blogging seems a rehash to me. Oullette fails to make physical sciences interesting. To me anyway. Yong grabs attention almost every single day. Huge diff and it isn't his dangly bits. It's the effort, the craft and no doubt native talent.

    We can warm fuzzy all we like but at some point you have to admit that some writers are just brilliant and others are, well, competent. Some have self-promotion down to a science and some are more variable. You have to bring the whole package.

    • Stephanie Z says:

      Of course, Ed also sleeps about four hours a night. There's not much the rest of us can learn from that. If we make his output quantity a prerequisite for anything we're going to consider good, emulatable writing, we're leaving out tons.

      DM, you may not want to address this in terms of making people better communicators, but that's the context in which the discussion is happening. Ed hasn't cornered the market on skills. As awesome as he is (and he is), there are things he doesn't do with his writing. For example, he really doesn't do the personal story that connects people to science on a limbic level.

      Ed certainly doesn't need to change, but if we don't make sure we're getting diversity (of several kinds) in our lists of people we should learn from, we miss out. We miss opportunities to connect with different audiences who prefer different styles and different viewpoints. We miss the opportunity to learn from writers whose skills may match our own inclinations better, making it easier for us to get our own messages out. And we miss the opportunity to recognize and reward those writers for what they offer us.

      We can all learn from Ed. He's just not the only person with plenty to offer.

    • Isis the Scientist says:

      I hear Isis is pretty top notch stuff.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I was not saying that Ed corners the only possible market. Just that I don't see anyone else bringing the whole package. I mean heck, if we gate on frequency and semi-serious postings, that doesn't leave a very large population to draw from right there.

  • becca says:

    DM, I doubt very much *Ed* would say that self-promotion comes naturally to him. That is not his 'native talent'.
    Having it 'down to a science' means he isn't ever obnoxious or spammy, it's just extremely easy to remember him once you've friended him on FB or followed on twitter.
    When it comes to *that* aspect of 'having the whole package', I think gender is pretty relevant. Because self promotion is a *learned* thing. And I think the double standards on confidence/arrogance for men and women make it more challenging for women to learn.

  • drugmonkey says:

    a *learned* thing.

    One of the major themes that is coming out of the post SciOnline discussion is that women bloggers are being specifically ignored. (In addition to the observations about self-promotion/confidence/etc.) Try not to conflate.

    Also, where did I suggest that Ed's native talent is for self-promotion? and for that matter, does what one claims about one's talents really mean jacksquatte? particularly when we're dealing with a self-effacing Englishdude?

    • scicurious says:

      I don't think that women bloggers being ignored is a conscious thing, I think it's more about a lack of self-promotion, and possibly unconscious bias, the same kind of bias that makes women's and minorities' CVs rank higher when the names are taken off, and the same kind of bias that makes people surprised when they realize that they haven't nominated a single female or minority seminar speaker.

  • Stephanie Z says:

    Specifically ignored? I don't think so. Talking about biases in listing exemplary people (beyond Ed) isn't the same thing. Nor is it particularly controversial in any topic outside of science communication--which is more than science blogging. Failure to engage is not the same thing as deliberate exclusion.

  • becca says:

    What does it mean to be 'specifically ignored'? Do you think it's possible that people, upon reading an awesome blog post at a new blog, click to see who writes it, and then are distinctly more likely to remember the *name* if it is a male?

    Dude, my whole point is that self-effacing Englishdude had to *learn* to self promote. Ergo, women can learn to self promote too... if we don't judge them more harshly for it. Which I think happens.

  • drugmonkey says:

    but I don't judge you harshly becca....?

  • FrauTech says:

    drugmonkey- sorry this is another one of those "it's not about you" personally. You don't need to pull out your nice guy credentials. It's about "the system" in general. We know outside of the blogosphere (salary negotiatons, etc) women are viewed negatively when they try to be assertive or self promote. So it's not too difficult to extrapolate that to how female-identified-bloggers will be perceived and consider that a hypothesis to explain their lack of ranking.

    And you think female science bloggers are underpromoted, try finding female engineer bloggers. Besides a few academically inclined on these blogging networks I'm runing into a wall. But then, engineer bloggers in general tend to be not as well organized as science. So I'll do some of that community plugging now and plug me and a few other people's new blogging collective: http://engineerblogs.org/

  • Can't figure out whether in the world of science writing, I don't pass as (1) a female (what, you've heard that I have an extreme male brain, or something?), and/or (2) a scientist, and/or (3) a blogger. I've flunked getting on any list or collection of female science bloggers. Don't mind at all, this stuff is over my head, just curious about what doesn't pass.

  • Id Yong says:

    I reckon that lists of names only do so much - they show that there's a large sample to draw from but they don't give you any impetus to actually click on any of the names.

    So I made my own list: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/01/27/celebrating-female-science-bloggers/ It's not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination but it does have the benefit of giving very specific reasons why I think you should read the women listed, and some very specific pieces that you could read as a starting point.

    Oh and hi, it's Ed. But since I have apparently transformed into some sort of abstract character/idea in this debate, I have taken on a new persona to actually participate in it.

  • Geeka says:

    I originally got into blogging because I was looking for someone to commiserate on my hatred of being in grad school. I was inspired by women. Looking back, I think that CPP was the only 'guy' blog that I read on a regular basis. I wasn't going out and looking for exclusively female bloggers.
    Maybe it's the measurement scale, not what's being measured. After all, who makes these lists, are they backed up by stats? I think probably not.

  • [...] at length about the self-promotion side of the discussion but more recently, the theme of visibility (or rather invisiblity) of female bloggers has [...]