One Psychologist's Brilliant Strategy For Combatting For Sexism In STEM

The strategy was inspired by Portman's pointed comment at the 2018 Golden Globes.

One of the most talked about moments from the 75th annual Golden Globes on January 7 was when actress Natalie Portman took to the stage to present the Best Director category and casually noted all of the nominees were male. "And here are the all-male nominees," she said before reading out the list.

In an evening full of poignant feminist moments, Portman's quip made an impactful splash, and now women across a variety of other industries are following her lead by using a similar tactic when needed. One such woman is Paige Harden, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, who suggested calling out "all-male nonsense" much like Portman did on Sunday.

In a brief but powerful Twitter thread posted as the Golden Globes were airing, Harden shared some examples of how women across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) can use what Portman did and apply it to their own fields.

"At conferences: 'it's my pleasure to introduce our next all-male panel....'" she wrote. Another example of what to say when reviewing manuscripts — "This all-male team of authors has shown…" — highlights just how male-dominated STEM fields are and makes clear when organizations have failed to make equal representation a priority.

"Time to make this patriarchal bullshit painfully obvious," Harden stated at the conclusion of her thread, which has already received hundreds of retweets, likes, and comments.

Her concerns about representation make sense — and although it's not just about the STEM pipeline, it does start early. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, at the K-12 level, female students' achievement in mathematics and science is on par with their male peers, but that doesn't translate after college, as women make up only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce. That statistic is even lower for minority women.

When STEM-inclined women graduate and join their chosen fields, they often face an uphill battle to get responsibility, resources, and respect — and the common factor seems to be their gender. As noted by Harden, it's not just that STEM panels and boardrooms aren't 50 percent women. It's that they are, all too often, nearly devoid of them. One study, described by Popular Science, found that women in STEM were substantially less likely be selected (and recommended) for the all-important scientific process of peer review, with male editors recommending women just 17 percent of the time. 

But there's good news. CES, which kicks off this week, received a lot of flak for its lack of female keynote speakers. The conference responded to the criticism by add two female panelists. So can calling out inequality work in the long run? All signs point to yes.

Cover image Denis Makarenko /


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