Women in Science, Big Bang Theory Style

Big Bang Theory did a women in science episode. I may be a week late (again), but I feel a little obligated to comment on it. That said, my personal focus tends to be less towards influencing any particular group into science than about making science seem more like a real thing. And I’m in the biomedical sciences, which appear to have a pretty even male/female split in my generation, and plenty of female professors in the generation ahead of me. (Although there is a group on campus for women in science, which I haven’t checked out. Maybe I should, to get more sides of the story.)

Now that I’ve laid out all of my biases, here’s a synopsis and my personal reaction to the points they made during the episode.

Leonard, Sheldon, and Howard were put on a university committee to address the issue of how to get more women in science. (Only Leonard seemed to really take this seriously.)

1) Leonard had the idea that people should submit papers under gender neutral names, using an initial in place of first names.

Reaction: I’m not sure what exactly he’s talking about here. Is he talking about papers for publications? He seems to be, since he mentioned the peer review process (peer reviewed journals take their submitted manuscripts and send them out to other scientists working in the same area for review prior to publication). If so, those papers are submitted to various journals, so I’m not sure what a university committee would do about it. Besides which, there are usually multiple authors on a paper anyway. And sometimes, they do use initials for first names, probably to save space.

In fact, on the multiple authors point, check out how many authors can go on a paper (and this isn’t even all of it). Who exactly are they going to discriminate against here?

Borrowed from nature.com

It’s usually not so many, but it can be a lot.

Verdict: ?

2) Sheldon criticized Leonard’s point, saying that he needed to target girls in middle school, and that by the time they’re in a position to submit papers, it’s too late.

Reaction: On one hand, that makes sense. On the other hand, there’s no shortage of articles pointing out low retention rates of women in science.

Weirdly enough, that’s all I feel the need to comment on. And it all happened in the first 5 minutes of the episode. The three guys did go to a middle school to talk to a bunch of female students, but it was played more to be funny than anything else. I can’t really think of anything meaningful to say about it.

It’s a little weird, actually, that the episode picked a theme and then refused to really do anything with it, from a storytelling perspective. As a side note, and to throw in something positive, I can’t help but like the very socially awkward girl Raj is dating now. I don’t know, the way she says she’s trying to do more things that scare her kinda speaks to me.

Does anyone know anything else about the topic? Or want to comment on any other shows/media that take on the topic of science or women in science?

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