'The perception of what it is to be a scientist needs to change,' says Dr Emily Grossman

Dr Emily Grossman is a force to be reckoned with. A scientist who has achieved a double first in science from Cambridge University, she has since become a writer, educator and science broadcaster, known for the Sky 1 programme, ‘Duck Quacks Don’t Echo’ and her regular appearances on news channels.

Dr Emily Grossman headshot 2Having recently suffered at the hands of Internet trolls, Grossman is now using her power to educate and reform people’s attitudes towards science and particularly towards women in the field.

In 2015, Grossman gave her opinion on a debate that had been sparked from Nobel prize-winning scientist, Tim Hunt’s comments. Hunt had said that, “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.”

Speaking of her decision to speak out, Grossman said, “I spoke out [against Tim Hunt] because his comments were irresponsible. Even if it was meant as a joke, it was an irresponsible thing to say, especially when so many girls lack the confidence to pursue careers in STEM.”

However, Grossman faced a huge backlash on Twitter and YouTube, with users making sexually aggressive comments, stereotyping female scientists and sending vulgar and insulting messages.

She says, “I was totally shocked by the backlash I received. What I found most disturbing was the misogyny and stereotyping – low lying and institutionalised sexism.”

After lots of self-reflection, looking after herself physically, spiritually and emotionally, and receiving support from End Online Misogyny, Grossman is now using her experiences to highlight that there is nothing wrong with being emotional and crying.

Her Tedx talk, entitled ‘Why science needs people to cry’, incorporates this idea and focuses on the concept of three ‘C’s – compassion, collaboration and creativity. Grossman argues that these are as essential to science as they are throughout any aspect of life.

“I wanted to share my experience so that other women would never feel as alone as I felt and so they might feel that they too could speak out.”

“My experiences have given me a platform to talk about online misogyny and offer support to other women. My response has not come from a place of anger, but education.”

“I just want to live in a world of equality of opportunity.”

Despite establishing an amazing career in science, Grossman confides that she hasn’t always had confidence in herself.

Having grown up with a supportive family and attended an all-girls school, Grossman says that she ‘didn’t have any inkling that a passion for maths and science was anything out of the ordinary for a girl.”

However, while studying at university surrounded by ‘male students, male lecturers and male tutors’ she began to question her abilities.

“I felt very, very out of place and different. At first I took that as a challenge but about six months in I lost my confidence.”

She now wants people to understand that, “science is not just about logic and analysis but also creativity and imagination.”

“The perception of what it is to be a scientist needs to change.”

Enticing women and girls into STEM is still a problem and Dr Grossman argues that we need to show girls all the exciting careers that are on offer. She also suggests that more role-models, a change in teaching methods and more available support would help encourage more girls to think of a career in STEM.

“We should be showing all young people that whatever qualities they possess, as long as they are excited about understanding the world, then STEM will welcome them.”

You can find out more about Emily and watch her Tedx talk here.

If you are suffering from online abuse and misogyny, you can find more information about End Online Misogyny here.

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