I'm going to take a step back from the shirt symptom with a little bit of broader picture. Back in 'the day', it was considered unusual for girls to like, let alone be good at math and science. There was even some since-discredited research saying that female brains were better at the humanities and male brains were better at the sciences. As a result, there's been a substantial age-range of males that saw the sciences as their own personal clubhouse - possibly even a man-cave. Add to that the fact that the people interested in the sciences tended towards the 'geek' and/or 'nerd' stereotypes, and there was pretty much the idea that no woman would even want
to hang with that crowd. And so there was no reason to be concerned about appearances.
This is what we are working to overcome.
A few months ago, there was an ad put out that yanked at my heart.linked for child
From the video: 66% of fourth grade girls say they like math and science. Only 18% of all college engineering majors are female.
When I was in college, I went to a 'women's college'. I knew I wanted to be a math major since about 7th grade. Some of my required classes
were so small that the professors had to get special waivers or push them through as 'Directed Inquiries' to avoid having to cancel them for 'lack of interest'.
Yes, things are changing. There is
more of a push to get girls interested in the STEM fields, but that
has to start in the middle and high schools, if not earlier. Parents have to stop teaching their kids that 'that's a boy thing' or 'girls don't do that', or 'boys will be boys'. Even though they grew up being told those things. The idea of astrophysics or any other lab being a 'boys' club' is from a previous generation, and will eventually die out if
we can keep the older generations moving forward.
Part of the difficulty is going to be not yanking too
hard as we do so. Yanking causes people to pull back. I'd wager that if someone had
given Mr. Taylor a gentle nudge before the interview, he would have changed or covered the shirt, and we wouldn't be having this discussion - and it probably would have avoided all the negativity on all sides. Mr. Taylor would have gotten a valuable lesson in public relations without being turned into some sort of tragic figure.
The comment has been made that 'no one saw anything unusual or inappropriate about Mr. Taylor's shirt' - and that this somehow puts all the onus on the team of scientists. But I'd also like to point out that this was an interview conducted by a TV news station. People that are
in front of the public every day and have access to makeup and wardrobe teams. Apparently none of them
thought it worthwhile to call for a lab coat, or even a zip-up hoodie (which kind of ties in with the comments in another thread about female journalists).