Women in the Science Blogosphere

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | January 18, 2011 12:56 pm

Robin Lloyd at Scientific American has a great post up about one of my sessions at ScienceOnline2011 which was entitled “Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name.” I plan to write more about the panel and encourage you to go read her terrific coverage of our discussion:

Blogging and other Web activities have allowed members of many marginalized communities to open previously locked media doors. But women still rely more on back channels and ask for less help than men do in the digital realm..For instance, comments posted to The Intersection blog, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum (@Sheril_) and Chris Mooney (@ChrisMooney_), tend to come from men, Kirshenbaum said, but emails to the blog authors typically come from women or children.

“Culturally, as women, we are less likely to speak out or argue,” Kirshenbaum said, adding that women tend to create communities, and mentor and co-market one another behind the scenes, rather than in more public or traditional forums.

– And one of the most interesting moments –

A face-palm reaction rippled among the 20 or so mostly female attendees of the session when “Not exactly rocket science” blogger Ed Yong (@edyong209) said, “I suspect there is a bias in terms of what is pushed to me through Twitter.” He explained that, although other male writers often ask him to retweet links to their latest blog posts, not a single such request has ever come from a woman writer. Women in the room immediately broke into laughter, and commented about the novelty and presumptuousness to them of such a practice. Said Yong, “The fact that people haven’t done this speaks volumes.”

Her full post here.


Comments (6)

Links to this Post

  1. Some thoughts, a poll and an invitation | January 27, 2011
  1. Thanks, Sheril! And it was so lovely to finally meet you in person. You did a great job, and I think all four of us meshed really nicely. It was a great experience.

  2. Matt B.

    Games Magazine had a very interesting article in their December (I think) issue about why women don’t get very high in gender-integrated competition. It might inform this discussion.

  3. Yes, I watched that session online and chuckled at the collective Homer-Simpson “DOH!” from attendees when Ed made his comment…

  4. J.J.E.

    I’m not sure I understand why Ed’s comment was viewed as facepalm worthy. After all, his point wasn’t about whether anybody SHOULD ask him to retweet, but about the relative number of people who DO make such requests. According to Ed’s comment on the Scientific American site:

    “I was specifically talking about drawing posts to my attention via Direct Messages on Twitter. This, I think, cuts through some of the presumptuousness, because people can only do it if I follow them (and I’m pretty sure that at least half of the people I follow are women). So there’s already a certain collegiate relationship there, and it affords me some measure of control over who I extend this service to (i.e. people who I rate enough to follow). ”

    And even if it were presumptuous of Ed to use his incoming retweet requests as a metric of anything, it is curious that apparently (according to Ed) men avail themselves of Ed’s tweeting and women do not.

    And a metacommentary here. Does talking about Twitter always sound so weird when read from a pre-2005 perspective? “Ed’s tweeting”, “half the people I follow are women”, “writers often ask him to retweet”. Weird…

  5. Hi Sheril! I didn’t get a chance to speak with you this year at the conference, but I wanted to let you know my students who attended your session told me that they really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with them. I was surprised that no one at the conference commented on the fact that the four students of mine who are about to be big-time bloggers are all female! I’m so excited about the experience they are getting, but it’s also a big priority to keep them safe. I was thrilled for them to be able to attend your session at the conference. I hope the video gets published somewhere soon because I plan on showing it to my other two students who didn’t attend the conference. It’s great that they have someone like you who frequently delves into this topic to look up to and get advice from. Thanks again!


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.


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