Still going strong, the #girlswithtoys movement actually started over seven months ago. A campaign about female representation and strength in STEM fields, it began when Caltech astrophysicist Dr. Shrinivas Kulkarni was asked to be interviewed on NPR in May of 2015. In a rather careless choice of words, he referred to scientists as just “boys with toys” during his time on the show.
While Dr. Kulkarni may not have had any malicious intent with his words, he cast a very powerful shadow over the entirety of the female scientific community. In his use of the general masculine, he not only virtually ignored the presence and success of female scientists, but very possibly added yet another discouragement to young female students with hopes of joining a STEM field. The idea of STEM as “boys club” isn’t a new one, but perpetuating it still a very dangerous thing. The more we paint STEM as a single-gender field, intentionally or not, the more obstacles we place in front of young girls with hopes of pursuing science or math. It’s common knowledge to most young women that the higher up in STEM they go, the more male-dominated the majority of their courses and work environments will become. Having to break through that is troubling enough for most, without the added reminder of this difficulty from their superiors like Dr. Kulkarni.
In an effort to remedy Dr. Kulkarni’s wrong and prove to young women how accessible STEM fields can be, the female scientific community took to twitter with their responses.
The #girlswithtoys movement continues to receive updates today, albeit without quite the same volume as its start. This movement’s ongoing success serves as a reminder to young women that female STEM positions are not a trend that comes and goes, but a constant option to be explored.