Applauding #girlswithtoys


Over the weekend, an online firestorm erupted when an astronomer referred to “boys with toys” when talking about telescopes during an interview with NPR. That comment might not, at first glance, seem particularly offensive. But it’s yet one more recent example of a pervasive culture of bias — whether conscious or unconscious — in fields that typically have low (or lower than normal) percentages of female representation.

Kate Clancy, listening to the program with her daughter, was upset both as a scientist and a mother, and so she did something about it. She created the hashtag
A selection of the photos uploaded on Twitter over the past few days for the hashtag #girlswithtoys. Please see the Twitter images page for links and credits on each photo.

It’s great to see social media used for something positive. In fact, one could argue that without Twitter, the astronomer’s offhanded comments would have just been broadcast into the ether. This type of sentiment could have been absorbed into the social consciousness as it has been countless times before. But Twitter, and other social media platforms, seem capable of helping groups, in this case, mostly women scientists, who are spread across time zones/geography, and fields of study, corral efforts to support and encourage not only themselves but also upcoming generations of workers.

We’re also choosing to focus on the glass being half full in this case. Instead of just being tolerated or repeated, the “boys with toys” comment sparked a virtual onslaught of constructive and inspiring images and messages of women in science. Here is a selection of some of our favorite astronomy-themed pictures from the hashtag #girlswithtoys:

I’m late to the party, but Arecibo is a big toy. This from 2008: —> Read More