Friday, December 27, 2013

Be mindful in describing female execs

Attention all HR newsletter, magazine, and obit writers. You need to be very careful in your writing when it comes to female scientists and executives.

Curtis Brainard wrote about this in the Summer 20134 issue of Science Writers Magazine.

Too often, the tack writers take is to emphasize the woman's "perseverance" in the face of hideous discrimination.

Phrases like "she is married and has two children, but has been able to keep up with her research" are a no-no.

Do not mention: the fact that she's a woman (should be obvious), her husband's job, her child care, that she "nurtures" underlings, that she was taken aback by the competitiveness of her field, how she is a role model for other women, and how she is "the first woman to..."

The above is called the Finkbeiner Test after science writer Ann Finkbeiner, who wrote a post about an astronomer--and treated the woman as just as astronomer, not some role model.

I have been guilty of this--I wrote an profile of an astronomer, too, once--she said she often had to tell men that her "eyes were up here." I included that--although my emphasis was on the fact that she only had a BA and was known for many discoveries.

The NYT opened an obit on a woman who had won The National Medal of Technology by talking about what good beef stroganoff she made and how her kid thought she was world's best mom.

They took out the stroganoff after a blizzard of tweets--but left in that she followed her husband from job to job.

Our work in never done.

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