You don’t mess with women in science. Someday, people will learn that. In an interview with NPR that took place earlier this month, Caltech astronomer Shrinivas Kulkarni made a casual comment that scientists are “boys with toys,” and that notion has gotten the attention of many women working in fields of science and engineering. Within just a few days, the hashtag #GirlsWithToys was trending on Twitter, featuring female scientists, engineers, astronomers, and the like showing off the “toys” they use to perform amazing feats of science.
Here, Tanya Harrison shows off her toys, tweeting: "I play with Mars rovers. #girlswithtoys"
Within 24 hours, the hashtag had been tweeted nearly 9,000 times. The Twitterstorm spanned the globe, as women in science learned of the NPR interview gaffe. “Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call boys with toys,” Kulkarni told NPR. “I really like playing around with telescopes. It’s just not fashionable to admit it.”
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This hashtag effort is not entirely dissimilar to the #InMyShoes campaign a few months ago, where women in science and engineering roles showed off their work footwear in support of an eight year-old girl who wanted dinosaur shoes.
Many Twitter users have used the #GirlsWithToys hashtag as an opportunity to celebrate the history of women in science as well. This includes Joe Palca, the NPR Science correspondent who conducted the interview that sparked this movement, who has since posted a number of tweets in support of female scientists, including this National Geographic video. Palca has also indicated he’d like to do more spotlights on women in science.
Past, present, and future, it’s clear that women belong in science, right alongside the boys.
Images via Twitter users Tanya Harrison, Lisa Harvey-Smith, Adafruit Industries, Jackie Faherty, Natalia G., AAO Astronomy, and Nicole Gugliucci.