Women in STEM

The panelists answered questions from the audience and discussed the importance of listening to our peers.

Paired with a panel discussion, Gonzaga's science department hosted a free film screening for the documentary “Picture a Scientist," in the Wolf Auditorium on Monday.

The panelists included Shannen Cravens, David Boose, Sara Diaz, Sue Niezgoda and Carla Bonilla, with moderator Elise Donovan, assistant professor of human physiology.

The film covered narratives of female scientists who discussed issues including sexism within academia from male colleagues, and implicit biases towards women in the sciences.

Nancy Hopkins, a retired biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was featured in the film. Hopkins noticed signs of sexism within her department as a senior professor when she was given a lab and found it was significantly smaller than her colleagues'.

Hopkins then measured all of the labs and found that the women’s labs were significantly smaller than the men’s. Hopkins’ lab was 1,500 square feet while the male junior professors had 2,000 square feet, and male senior professors had 3,000 square feet.

After the film, Donovan relayed anonymous questions from students in the room to the panelists. The first question dealt with issues of harassment, specifically asking if/when any of the panelists noticed bias within their careers.

“I think I was not aware of it until a new student in my graduate lab joined and pulled me aside…and he asked me, ‘Why does our boss treat you so differently?’ ‘What are you talking about, I've been in this lab for three or four years’ ‘No, he questions you more than other students.’ And that actually made me pause and think back on all the conversations that I've had with my boss, and the more subtle language that he would use with me…and I was the only woman in the lab,” said Shannan Cravens, assistant professor of chemistry.

The female panelists had all experienced some form of harassment or bias, while male panelist, David Boose, the department chair of biology, had never experienced anything similar and acknowledged that it takes effort to combat these issues.

“Bring your white cisgendered, heterosexual male friends…if you're coming to an event like this…the power of listening to other people's stories has been transformational in getting me to be committed to this kind of work,” Boose said.

The science department plans on hosting more events like this, so there will be more opportunities to become educated on other social issues within the sciences in the future.

The panelists all touched on the importance of listening to our peers and standing up for those who are being marginalized — in this case women and women of color in the sciences.

“I just want room to be myself!” said Carla Bonilla, associate professor of biology.

The scientists in the film argued this same sentiment, that women should be able to exist in a space filled with science and not silence.

Giana Martinez is a staff writer.