The second panelist from Saturday’s STS conference was Christine Luk from Arizona State University who’s talk was entitled: Engaging Women in Science and Technology Policy-making: Beyond the Paradox of Under-representation of Women
Instead of discussing the usual challenges women face, Christine is interested in why the gender gap persists despite enhancement of female status and social change. She began by highlighting regular policy recommendations that support affirmative action and the development of economic incentives for women. According to Christine, enrolling women in science and technology is not enough because it’s not merely about increasing our headcount. Rather she suggests we need a more visible role of feminist perspectives. I agree, yet I’m convinced this is a chicken and egg problem. We must place more bright and capable young ladies in the public eye who break the mold of what we’ve come to expect of a ‘female in S&T’.
However, what stood out for me during Christine’s talk was the Queen Bee hypothesis which suggests (if I understood correctly) that the limited number of women who do rise in these areas may actually suppress others from doing so.It’s an interesting theory, although I’m not convinced. In my own field of marine science, ladies are quickly climbing the ranks at record pace, not to mention Jane Lubchenco now heads NOAA. Furthermore, despite progressive social change, there will likely be a very long lag time for women to rise to visibly prominent roles across fields. Finally, we cannot hope to achieve gender equality in the S&T workforce under the status quo parameters. As I’ve written in the past, if we are to encourage women to stay in the system, then the system will need to undergo fundamental changes to accommodate more of us. I’m not sure whether that’s a practical expectation, or even whether it should be.
As for the queen bee hypothesis, it’s an idea I have not come across until now. Has anyone experienced this? The ladies I adore offline and around the blogosphere tend to be overwhelmingly supportive of each other. Thoughts?