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The Female Bill Nye

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Who’s the female version of Bill Nye?

Oh, come on… you know one…

Don’t you? I mean, there must be one out there somewhere. Right?

Apparently, there’s not. Dr. Sten Odenwald on HuffPo says there aren’t any female science promoters. And then he looks for significant women in history.

I think that’s the wrong comparison.

The women he mentions, including Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, didn’t seek fame: they were doing research that they wanted to be popular, trying to promote particular agendas that were acceptable to the public. They were not necessarily the greatest minds of the day or even of their time, however important their research. And Albert Einstein, perhaps the best scientific mind ever, was not a science promoter. When you think of the-next-Einstein, you don’t think of Neil deGrasse Tyson. The current best science promoter may, however, be Dr. Tyson. This title of science promoter… it’s not about intellect. I mean, PhDs sure don’t grow on trees, and I fully respect the people who have earned the title of Doctor. But their fame has to do with the particular fields these people are known for. Carson will be known for Silent Spring, Goodall for chimpanzees, Einstein will be associated with relativity, and Dr. Tyson will be associated with killing off Pluto and harassing Jon Stewart over the direction of The Daily Show’s turning planet.

There are a lot of female science promoters out there, if you know where to look. Besides I F*ing Love Science by Elise Andrew and Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, there’s The Brain Scoop by Emily Graslie. Ms. Graslie gives, what I think is a pretty good reason for not having many female popularizers in Where My Ladies At?, where she describes the marginalization of her videos’ content by commenters who apparently only care about her looks and denial of her skills and knowledge:


(I’ve written of my lunch-date-love for Ms. Graslie already.) I think that’s also why a number of women who do write about science choose to not have their own names associated with their channels/handles/columns. It’s a desire to be taken seriously. It’s, frankly, one of the reasons I chose a non-gendered title for my own handle.

But the problem lies more in this: the idea that online and in real life, women aren’t taken as seriously as men, especially in business and STEM-related fields. A few days ago, the NYTimes just posted an advice for how women should negotiate for a raise in the workplace. Even hiring women in the first place isn’t so easy. I, sadly, don’t have many women in my own science/math lists, but a decent number in the education lists. What that says about gender ratios in those fields, or who I read, or whether I also (unconsciously) prefer, I’m not entirely sure.

And why do we need another Bill Nye anyway? Absolutely nothing against Bill Nye, but I’m going to guess that whoever fills those fantastic kid-enthralling-shoes is going to want his/her own legacy.

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