WICTO Wine and Cheese

In a room full of the next generation of scientists from the Department of Chemistry, there was one black sheep.

Eden Hennessey, a Social Psychology Ph.D. Candidate, was invited to the Women in Chemistry Initiative’s Wine and Cheese event to present her photo-research exhibits. Hennessey’s research focuses on the consequences of confronting sexism in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Confronting sexism is perceived unfavorably among men and women and can reduce the confronter’s self-esteem.1 However, confrontation is necessary to reduce future bias, to promote inclusivity, and increase retention in STEM fields.2

Understanding the importance and impact of her research, Hennessey joined with her graduate student association to share her research findings using a visual medium. Her first exhibit entitled #DistractinglySexist was inspired by women’s responses to Tim Hunt’s sexist comments and advertisements dissuading girls to enter STEM fields.

 

 

 

 

 

Her latest installation, #DistractinglyHonest, depicts various challenges faced by women in STEM, to highlight differences and similarities between the trajectories of men and women in science. Photography pieces, like #HonestlyChallenging, illuminate the struggle that many women face to maintain a work-life balance while undergoing social isolation, stereotypes, and harassment. The image features a real woman in science and her infant son, not a model hired to represent the issue.

These powerful images and accompanying research facilitated a group discussion about gender disparity and equity during the Wine and Cheese. The supportive and relaxed atmosphere allowed for many people to share their stories and voice their beliefs. Hennessey also answered multiple questions about her research and promoting diversity in STEM, always quoting a piece of research with her answers.

This event proved that more communication between different academic fields needs to occur to bring about lasting change. To make the necessary and informed policy and social changes, scientists need to work with social scientists who are conducting the research on diversity, equity, and inclusivity in STEM.

A picture is worth a thousand words. A picture paired with literature and research findings provides an avenue for social change.

References

[1] Eliezer, D.; Major, B. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 2012, 15, 487-502.

[2] a) Czopp, A.; Monteith, M.; Mark, A. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2006, 90, 784–803. b) Mallet, R. K.; Wagner, D. E. Journal of Experimental Psychology 2011, 47, 215-220.

Photo credits

(http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/dangerous-lessons-from-sexist-shirts_n_6102096)

About womeninchemto

Women in Chemistry, Toronto Chapter (WICTO) is student-run initiative started in 2014 to promote gender diversity within the chemistry community through awareness, engagement and advocacy.