Bibliobloggers not the only ones with gender issues

Last month there was quite a bit of discussion about the number of women who are biblioblogging (see the last Biblical Studies Carnival for a good roundup of the discussions).

Therefore, I found it very interesting to find this post today. Apparently, the UK Times’ new science magazine Eureka has been accused of being male-centric (based on the content and look of its inaugural issue) in this post by Jennifer Rohn: In which I have seen the future of science, and it is male.

The comments in reaction to this post rivaled the biblioblogger response to April Deconick‘s question about the Biblioblog Top 50: Why are there so many male bibliobloggers? Why are there so few females on that list?

In a follow-up post, Jennifer points out the response (buried late in the comments) of the female editor of the new magazine:

I’m the editor of Eureka, and yes I am a woman, and a very committed feminist. I have been following your blog, and reading your comments online. It’s taken a while for me to reply because I’ve been furiously busy, apologies for that. I do want to reply because I think you all raise incredibly important issues.

I would like to just explain our thinking about the number of women in the issue. Yes, we knew they were under-represented. Yes, we agonised about it. (I’m stung by the suggestion we didn’t notice, or that the graphics are dictated by marketing!)

But I, and my female picture editor, are absolutely committed to the principle of including ideas and pictures based on merit alone. We were looking for 15 astonishing ideas, and only 4 of the ideas we loved were being championed by women – Libby Heaney, Angela Belcher, Laura Chamberlain and Rachel Armstrong.

At one point we nearly put in a few more ideas, solely to have more pictures of women in the photo essay, but rejected the idea as patronising and ridiculous.

As for the columnists being male, I make no apologies for that. We wanted Martin Rees to be our guest columnist for our launch issue, but there will be women in that slot in the future (suggestions welcome!). The Times’ environment editor and science editor are male – but as a lifelong Times employee I can assure you that this is coincidental; there are plenty of women in positions of real power here, just not any in those two jobs. Ben Miller is male, but the market for comics with a scientific background is a niche one.

In a previous incarnation I was Deputy Business Editor of The Times and faced a similar problem; women were under-represented in senior roles in business, and getting them into our pages felt like a struggle. I came to the same conclusion then: our job is to report the world not invent it as we would like it to be.

I know that many of you felt that the furniture was male, and you are probably right. We could make more effort with the graphics etc.

I have plenty of plans for championing women in science in future editions, but I’m afraid I will not be shoe-horning women into any issue in just for the sake of it.

If any of you have ideas for women whose work you think we would like to know about because the work is astonishing, then I would be delighted to hear about them. I can be reached at

Jennifer also highlighted Maxine Clarke’s response:

But there are just so many women doing great scientific work – as I mentioned above, it really is not hard to find them. They are not invisible. I am afraid I absolutely do not buy the argument put forth by Henry and maybe others that it is harder to get women to write. I have personally commissioned literally hundreds of articles over the years, and have never found it a problem to publish those by women as well as those by men. I think every commissioning editor, whether of Eureka, or of a Nature or other scientific journal, or anywhere, can find people who are fully representative of the scientific world – gender, geographical location, etc. It really is not difficult. And if it takes an extra five minutes of phone calls/search to find a woman who isn’t into self-promotion bigtime but is doing superior work, then that is five minutes well spent.

Does any of this discussion sound similar?

One thought on “Bibliobloggers not the only ones with gender issues

  1. Karyn Post author

    I mention this similar situation simply to note the complexity of the issue and that the Bibliobloggers are not the only ones wrestling with how to handle it, not to stand on a soapbox.

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