Sexism in an astronomical environment, these women tell their story…

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Sexism in an astronomical environment, these women tell their story…

Discrimination in all its forms seriously harms its victims. In an effort to discourage the sexism they suffered in their careers, two scientists wrote autobiographical books. These books remind the seriousness and the exaggerated proportions that this practice takes. Even today, the phenomenon is topical, but seems to be gradually disappearing.

Concept of unequal career opportunities for men and women

Passionate about astronomy, the two authors let themselves be carried away by their dreams, but their momentum was quickly hampered by gender discrimination. This situation therefore led each of them to wage a fierce struggle to assert women’s rights. These astronomers eventually led the male gender to show them respect.

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a geologist converted into a planetary scientist, is one of the two women victims of sexism. The main lines of his touching story appear in the book A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman.

The weight of contemptuous looks sows doubt in the mind

In her book, Lindy Elkins-Tanton recounts one of her worst experiences, which took place in Siberia. During an expedition to collect rocks, the scientist was subjected to the heavy atmosphere created by her colleagues when she was taking a sample. According to the researcher, her collaborators probably silently told themselves that they could do her job better than her in a very short time.

This unbearable pressure finally created over time a doubt at Lindy Elkins-Tanton. For her part, Virginia Trimble also speaks about her negative experiences, and says that her self-confidence has been eclipsed by being exposed to incessant criticism. Moreover, particularly as a black woman, she fought an uphill battle in an already hostile environment.

I could feel the silent impatience of the men nearby. Why not let everyone do the tasks they want and need to do, at their own pace? »

Elkins-Tanton, geologist turned planetary scientist

According to these women, failure is above all the lack of initiatives

Despite being subject to criticism in the workplace, Lindy Elkins-Tanton and Virginia Trimble knew how to impose their rules. So they knew brilliant careers while inspiring respect at their colleagues. One of the researchers then became the director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration from Arizona State University.

The other, meanwhile, is currently working to improve scientific literacy, at the National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Lab in Tucson. Today, the number of women succeeding in becoming executives continues to increase, proof that the efforts of their predecessors have not been in vain.


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