Angela Saini credits her egalitarian upbringing and father in particular for being able to study engineering at university. A science journalist and author her new book Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting The Story looks at how over centuries women have been constantly discriminated against when they have aspired to pursue a career in Science.
She says part of the motivation to write this book was to simply know herself better – “As women, we get fed such contradictory information about ourselves. We’re told that we’re not as smart, that we are more empathetic or intuitive. I simply wanted to get to the facts and understand why controversies exist in the sciences. It turned out that the female body and mind is a very bitter scientific battleground.”
“As women, we get fed such contradictory information about ourselves. We’re told that we’re not as smart, that we are more empathetic or intuitive. I simply wanted to get to the facts and understand why controversies exist in the sciences.”
Saini’s educational background is illustrious. She did her masters in Engineering from the University of Oxford, followed by a second master in Science and Security from King’s College London. The former BBC journalist was also a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology between 2012 and 2013. Her interest in journalism piqued after writing for her university paper as a student.
She adds, “I think, looking back, it was inevitable that I’d end up as a journalist and author. I tried journalism after university with a view to falling back on engineering if I failed, but fortunately, it all worked out. My first job was with Frontline magazine in New Delhi, under the very brilliant editor Praveen Swami. I then secured a traineeship with ITN in London, and it was all set from there.”
Getting out there and finding the biggest story which no one else has is the biggest challenge for Saini, whose first book Geek Nation was about how India has been transforming itself into a global science superpower. Going the extra mile for an interview, or under the skin of a story, is both challenging and exhilarating at the same time. Although she does admit that there are people within Science who still think that women are not cut out for it.
“But I didn’t hear comments like that until I started working as a journalist. As a student, despite being a rarity as a female in my classes, I never felt anything but supported and encouraged. People wanted me to win,” she says.
While we keep getting closer to achieving gender equality in the field of science, in some ways, the society is also more gendered than ever.
While we keep getting closer to achieving gender equality in the field of science, in some ways, the society is also more gendered than ever – “Go to a toy store and you will see separate pink and blue aisles. We remain committed to the idea that boys and girls are fundamentally different in their capabilities and desires.”
For her new book, Saini had absent-mindedly suggested the idea of doing a feminist book tour across various universities on Twitter and within a day her Tweet went viral. She got dozens of requests from universities all over the world. She says, “What I and the other organisers want to achieve is a movement of women within science – to have feminists rise up and say enough is enough, we want change, and going slow is not going to cut it anymore.”
When not writing, Angela Saini’s four-year-old son keeps her busy. She also runs a nonfiction science book club in London. The author wants to keep writing more books and doing journalism that makes her proud.
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