Is Science Feminist?

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By Ali Pilgram


Three Missouri Western alumni led a discussion about being a woman in their science related careers as part of Women’s History Month.


Associate Professor Dr. Melinda Kovacs chooses the theme each year when planning the entire event series. The goal of this year’s theme, “What Is and Is Not Feminist?,” is to address feminism and break the negative stigma that follows it by educating people about the topic.


Kovacs explains that this year is particularly challenging because of the controversial theme.


“I think it’s a little bit more difficult this year because the theme that I picked is very exclusively about feminism,” Kovacs said. “So, it’s not about celebrating women, it’s about feminism and feminism is very clearly a bad word still.”


Every year during Women’s History Month, there is a “women in science” event. After Kovacs came up with the theme and details, she handed her ideas off to Dr. Barbara, who was in charge of selecting the alumni for the discussion.


Alumni included Bobbi Dickeson, a 2014 graduate who specializes in progressive cardiac care; Margaret Slayton, a 2013 graduate who is an outdoor writer for News-Press NOW; and Carol Clark, a 2011 graduate who is a naturalist technician at Weston Bend State Park.


Each speaker took turns talking about the specific challenges she faced when working towards her career path. The speakers all revealed that one of the greatest obstacles was overcoming their own self-doubt.


Slayton commented on the idea that women tend to doubt their abilities more so than men.


“I would say women do self-doubt themselves more, or at least they’re more open about doubting themselves, Slayton said. “But I suspect this probably also a human emotion that everybody experiences.”


Kovacs was pleased with the coordination of the event and hopes that future events will gain more public interest within the community.


“I think the best audience is one that is a mix of students and faculty and staff and community members,” Kovacs said. “Because if we do this right, I think Women’s History Month events can be a good town and gown collaboration. Since we are a public university, we should work on having really good relationships with the city in which we happen to be a function.”


The events for Women’s History Month do not receive any funding, so Kovacs primarily relies on favors and goodwill to get the job done.


Catlin Ashlock, a freshman at Western, says that attending events like “Is Science Feminist?” helps to broaden her knowledge of gender stereotyping in the workforce.


“Well, I mean, I guess I didn’t think of science as being feminist,” Ashlock said. “When you do look back at it, you do realize that there are jobs that people label are just for women or just for men, so I thought was interesting to see their take on it.”