When Katie Bouman was credited to be the scientist who made it possible for us to have a picture of a black hole for the first time, she wouldn’t have imagined that she would face a question mark on her credibility, due to her gender. There are threads, pages and memes on the internet, which are dedicated to discrediting Bouman, because how could a girl write such a significant algorithm? How could she achieve such a phenomenal breakthrough in the field of science? Especially, the one which has eluded far more experienced male scientists? Success in a male-dominated field comes with a cost for women, and 29-year-old Bouman is just paying the price for that.

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • People are targeting Katie Bouman’s credibility due to her gender.
  • Success in a male dominated field comes with a cost for women.
  • Especially in male-dominated fields like STEM, it is not easy for women to claim credentials.

Success in a male dominated field comes with a cost for women, and 29-year old Bouman is just paying the price for that.

Many people have shared alarming feeds about how some people on social media are sharing fake information saying that Bouman has very little to do with the famous algorithm which led us to capture the very first image of a black hole ever. According to these trolls, a scientist by the name Andrew Chael was in fact responsible for “850,000 of the 900,000 lines of code that were written in the historic black-hole image algorithm!” A fact that Chael himself has denied vehemently.

So just why is it so difficult for these people to digest Bouman’s breakthrough? Because STEM still remains a male dominated field. Thus the skepticism was inevitable and gender does play a crucial role here. Would people have doubted credibility of any male scientist, in her place? Would they have gone ahead dissecting the algorithm the way they have, had it been a man credited in writing it? However, since it is a woman we are celebrating here, the question over the credibility of her contribution couldn’t be far away.

The disbelief people are showing in Bouman’s achievements is the living proof of the amount of resistance women have to face in this field

How could she have achieved something so phenomenal, which eluded so many talented and experienced male scientists? So unaccustomed are we of seeing a young women in the spotlight in the field of science, that our first instinct is to question why is she here. Thus women not only face resistance within their professional circle but even outside it. The disbelief people are showing in Bouman’s achievements is the living proof of the amount of resistance women have to face in this field.

It makes one think how many woman may have suffered career setbacks and lost credit for the work they have done, because people constantly doubted their credibility? Women who are powerful, intelligent, smart and articulate still intimidate many. Their gender becomes a threat to the dynamics which we have grown comfortable with. I am very happy with the support Bouman is receiving from her team, including Chael.

Yes, this picture of black hole is a team effort. But if Katie achieved a breakthrough which set the team on its path to success, then she deserves all the attention she is getting. All those who are trolling her need to see the support she is garnering from the likes of Chael in her team. If you still fail to see where exactly the problem lie despite that, then my friend, you are a part of the problem.

Picture credit Katie Bouman/CNBC

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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