Why we shouldn’t blame women for gender disparity in science: Perspectives of women in zoology

  • Pensoft Editorial Team
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  • March 25, 2021
  • A Brazilian network of female zoologists aims to oppose gender disparity in science

    Guest blog post by Veronica Slobodian

    Scientists are part of a rather sexist society and, therefore, ruled by a rather sexist social conduct. Nevertheless, women scientists attempt to thrive despite all setbacks provided by structural sexism (both explicit and implicit). 

    Sadly, female scientists are more likely to suffer from harassment, be deprived from recognition for their work, and be more overburdened with household chores compared to their male counterparts. All these situations are being reinforced by social gender stereotypes. 

    As a result, many women leave academia because of these hindrances and prejudice in a phenomenon known as “leaking pipeline”. To properly address those setbacks, we must first recognize the structural inequalities in academia, and then provide strategies to recruit, retain and promote students and faculty from underrepresented groups. 

    In a rebuttal to an article published in Nature Communications (AlShebli et al. 2020, now retracted), which suggested that female protégés reap more benefits when mentored by men and, therefore, policies to promote female mentors need to be revisited, our group of female zoologists wrote the opinion paper “Why we shouldn’t blame women for gender disparity in academia: Perspectives of Women in Zoology“, now published in the open-access scientific journal Zoologia. Quickly supported by over 500 signatories from all around the world, the piece soon grew into the Women in Zoology network, which brings together zoologists from underrepresented people in the scientific field groups, especially women.

    In this reply, we pointed to the methodological flaws and addressed the inherently problematic conclusions of AlShebli et al. (2020). We also demonstrated the gendered academic settings that systematically prejudices women and presented how some of the current diversity policies are positively changing the zoological field in Brazil. While writing our response, we realized these challenges and aches were in fact much more common in the field, so we decided to broaden the network to encompass all female zoologists who want a more fair and diverse Zoology. So, with the “Women in Zoology” network, our aim is to promote female zoologists, investigate their underrepresentation in Brazilian zoology, and propose policies to balance the situation. 

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    Original article: 

    Slobodian V, Soares KDA, Falaschi RL, Prado LR, Camelier P, Guedes TB, Leal LC, Hsiou AS, Del-Rio G, Costa ER, Pereira KRC, D’Angiolella AB, de A Sousa S, Diele-Viegas LM (2021) Why we shouldn’t blame women for gender disparity in academia: perspectives of women in zoology. Zoologia 38: 1-9. https://doi.org/10.3897/zoologia.38.e61968 

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    Find more information about the “Women in Zoology” network on Instagram: @mulheresnazoologia.

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