‘It’s no wonder there aren’t more women in STEM if we publicly vilify the ones who succeed’

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • 'The backlash against Dr Bouman is a not-so-subtle reminder that male scientists who make history gain recognition, while their female counterparts are painted as frauds,' says Marie Claire's Jenny Proudfoot

    You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Dr Sarah Bouman this month. The 29-year-old computer scientist was credited for her work developing code resulting in the capturing of the first-ever image of a black hole.

    The photo posted by MIT showed Dr Bouman at her computer, captioned: ‘Here’s the moment when the first black hole was processed, from the eyes of researcher Katie Bouman.’

    Unsurprisingly, the groundbreaking photo went viral, with Katie congratulated by everyone from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Nancy Pelosi for her work on the project, as well as her ‘inspiring women and girls with STEM dreams’.

    A woman at the front of a huge scientific breakthrough getting the credit she deserves – 2019 was looking good.

    Katie was the first to tell everyone that it was a team effort, insisting that ‘no one algorithm or person made this image,’ but with the internet being what it is, the online backlash started and within hours, Dr Bouman had been vilified.

    Yes, just when we thought we were making progress, here’s a not-so-subtle reminder that when male scientists make history, they gain recognition, but when female scientists make history, they are painted as frauds.

    Within hours, Bouman’s Wikipedia page was marked for deletion and there were videos on YouTube dissecting how much work she had actually contributed to the project. People speculated that it was her colleague Andrew Chael that was actually responsible for the breakthrough, with Katie getting to be the face of the project for the sole reason that she was a woman.

    To those people I say, how dare you? This is blatant sexism.

    We need more women in STEM, not just for diversity but for scientific innovations. But it’s no wonder there aren’t more women in the field if we publicly vilify the ones who succeed.

    Your tweets stripping the recognition away from Dr Bouman will have been seen by young girls across the globe, deterring them from pursuing science and technology, and changing the future for the worse.

    Andrew Chael was quick to defend his colleague, taking to Twitter to post:

    ‘So apparently some (I hope very few) people online are using the fact that I am the primary developer of the eht-imaging software library to launch awful and sexist attacks on my colleague and friend Katie Bouman. Stop.’

    He continued: ‘While I appreciate the congratulations on a result that I worked hard on for years, if you are congratulating me because you have a sexist vendetta against Katie, please go away and reconsider your priorities in life’.

    In my opinion, even a development as huge as the first black hole photo doesn’t count as progress if it means regressing on something as important as gender equality.

    It’s 2019 and we need to do better.

    Reading now

    Popular Life stories