Women in Science

I challenge you to name 10 scientists who are women.

Scientists in the Wild

There are a lot of female scientists out there! We all have our own lists; here's a few who are my personal heroes / whose work I admire.

  • anneslist. Prof. Anne Churchland (Cold Spring Harbor) keeps an updated list of female systems neuroscientists which I found very helpful in searching for labs! Prof. Churchland is also one of my examples to live up to in science.
  • Prof. Nancy Kanwisher (MIT) is one of my personal heroes. She is at the center of a web of an extraordinarily large web of people, and is an excellent research, mentor, and teacher besides. (How often do you get that combination?) The experience of taking her fMRI course was a bit life-changing for me, and she has all sorts of resources on her braintalks website. Her Ted Talk is great as well.
  • Have you ever been asked: "What's the coolest thing in science?" This question is completely unanswerable, but I always describe Rebecca Saxe's work as an example of science that is awfully cool. Her Ted Talk describes her work on the brain basis for Theory of Mind (thinking about other peoples' thoughts).
  • There are so many great people in neuroscience / cognitive science, etc. Sharon Thompson-Schill's work, lab philosophy, and mentoring are incredible (Penn); I very much enjoyed learning about work from Yael Niv's reinforcement learning and decision-making lab (Princeton), Hyowon Gweon's social learning lab (Stanford), Ev Fedorenko's language lab (MIT), and Laura Schulz's cocosci lab. And those are just a few!
  • Prof. Tania Lombrozo writes about science for popular audiences on NPR :)
  • Some fantastic post-docs / graduate students: Zeynep Saygin (MIT), Yvonne Fonken (Berkeley), Leyla Isik (MIT), Jorie Koster-Hale (Harvard) Hilary Richardson (MIT), Candace Ross (MIT), Rosa Lafer-Sousa (MIT), Lindsey Powell (MIT), Caroline Robertson (Harvard), Amy Skerry (Khan Academy), Alex Paxton (Berkeley), ...
  • Business Insider's highlighting of some excellent female scientists: Article
  • Historical women in science: Article
  • #whatadoctorlookslikeRepresentation of women of color in the related field of medicine!
  • And we can get more young people involved in STEM :). The whole second column has a whole bunch of outreach groups, but here's so more (mostly local, but things like this should be available elsewhere!) Outreach opportunities: some options, YouStem
  • And the list goes on. Do you have a list of current female scientists you admire and would be willing to link here?


Despite the challenges of sexism, this is our community and scientists are here to do science. Some stories / resources to keep forging on!

Sexism in Science

Gender does matter in science, however much we'd prefer it doesn't. Some excellent articles on the topic!

  • NSF Reports on the "participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering"
  • [Direct Comparison Case Study] It's not often you can find a direct comparison in gender differences... but Prof. Ben Barres writes about the unique situation of transitioning from being a female to male scientist in Nature, 2006: Article.
  • [*Harassment] I adore this article, because it rings so ridiculously true. Graduate students are often at the mercy of their supervisors, and today's lab culture does not do much to protect students from sexual harassment from above. Prof. A Hope Jahren writes in the New York Times.
  • [Harassment] Being Female In Science by Paige Brown Jarreau.
  • [Harassment Reporting] Recommended to me with the following: A strong and eloquent article written by Sheila Dwyer, who is part of the Physics team that in January 2016 reported the Nobel-shoe-in discovery of gravitational waves.
  • [Controlled Gender Bias Study] One study: When scientists are given identical CVs except that one name is "Jennifer" and the other "John", "Jennifer" is judged as less competent and is offered $4000 less per year on average. (Example popular press article.)
  • [Numbers Problem] The "leaky pipeline" has been an ongoing discussion about how to keep women in science and engineering. Women make up the majority of science majors in college but the numbers continually decrease in the more powerful and high-paying positions. (An example article; another; there are many and this debate continues to change.)
  • [Science and Family] There is a LOT of evidence and discussion about having a family and being science, and how this is disproportionally harder for women. Here's an example article on the pay gap between scientists and its interaction with family.
  • [*Modern Case Study on Race and Gender Bias] A modern update referencing most of the articles above: Gender and racial bias in how women scientists are treated. (Article)
  • "Imposter Syndrome", whereby people feel they are "faking" being good enough for their positions, affects academics and women especially. If this pertains to you, there are communities of others who feel the same way. (Example article)