Women in science & the media

On a rather long visit to the hairdressers (yes scientists do visit the hairdressers) I was handed a copy of Red magazine. Now I enjoy a glossy, trashy, gossip filled magazine as much as the next person but Red is a little different, it's a little more 'serious', it isn't based solely around fashion. Currently it is promoting 'Red's Hot Women' which is a competition promoting intelligent women that work hard and have showed great achievements in their field. The article was entitled 'the top 20 under 30' and all the women featured in the magazine are extremely talented and inspirational... I just have one problem, not one of them was a scientist.

Now this is just one example, I am sure there are scientists that were in the shortlist but didn't make it for whatever reason. I am also not saying that women scientists are better than anyone else. I just want to highlight the fact that the world of science and women scientists get practically ZERO mention in women's magazines.

I can speculate the reason for this, people that work on the magazines probably do not have an understanding of what goes on in the career of a scientist and lets face it, science doesn't equal glamour.

But I do believe they are missing out on something here... who better to debunk the latest beauty fad than a level headed scientist? 'Wonder cream claims 0 wrinkles in 30 minutes'. Someone who understands the basics of skin science, formulation and statistics could give a pretty well rounded view of the truth behind claims like these. I don't want to bring doom and gloom to the whole picture, I know these magazines are largely used for escapism and if buying that cream makes you feel good, then it make you feel good and I wouldn't want to deny anyone that pleasure! But if someone could give the truth behind what is being sold, it might enable people make their own minds up a little easier, rather than being clouded by opinions.

They also have many articles on various diseases that effect women and regular articles on breast cancer, in fact lots of them are linked to fundraising for charities that support research in these areas. So why do they never cover where the money goes? They never cover the path to drug discovery, the fact that it takes a bare minimum of 5 years to get any new treatment out and available for public use. I bet the majority of people don't know that the money that they provide goes to fund short contracts in research - meaning that the majority of scientists doing the work never have job security as their contracts only last for 3-18 months.

So, off topic I am going to give my own little dedication to women from science and the good that they have done.

Marie Curie (Named New Scientists Greatest Female Scientist of all Time)

Nobel Prize winner (x2!), Chemist and physicist - Created the theory of radioactivity, many people (men) refused to believe that it was the work of a woman. Through her direction, the first studies into using radiation to treat cancers were carried out.


Elizabeth Garrett Anderson - The first British woman to gain a medical qualification in the UK (Elizabeth Blackwell was the first British woman to gain a medical qualification, but that was in the US)

She went on to build a  medical school for women


Sorry to overdo the wikipedia links a little bit.. but this is an excellent article about women in science throughout the centuries.


Rosalind Franklin - The somewhat unsung hero

It was her data Watson and Crick reportedly used to formulate their hypothesis of DNA structure.

And there are many many more! Also, I never knew that Beatrix Potter was a mycologist!


  1. I just found this old Guardian woman's piece - http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/jul/02/britishidentity.gender quoted in research paper I'm reading at the moment on the subject

  2. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing that. That list is great.


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