The XX Question

Last spring, a series of informal conversations on the status of women in science writing led to a decision that the timing was right for a more structured, in person conversation on the subject. The result was a session pitched to and approved by the National Association of Science Writers for this year’s annual meeting. Titled “The XX Question,” it will take place on Saturday, November 2, as a 90-minute, standalone session, with Deborah Blum as moderator and Christie AschwandenMaryn McKennaKathleen RavenFlorence Williams, and Emily Willingham as discussants.

A pie chart showing the (binary) gender distribution of authors of the Open Education Database's listing of best 100 science books of all time. The vast majority are by men.

The XX Question will explore issues ranging from recognition to pay to sexual harassment. It will begin with a visual presentation of some data illustrating employment and other gender-based patterns in science writing. The powerpoint presentation is the work of Kate Prengaman, a Washington-state based environmental journalist.

Discussants plan to raise additional issues based on their experience, but most of the time will be given to a discussion open to everyone who attends. Among the issues the XX working group has identified as areas that need addressing are equal pay for equal work, greater gender equality in bylines and mastheads, respect for the quality of the work itself and a process for staffers and freelancers to report harassment without jeopardizing their positions.

But we invite all attendees to raise their own issues and concerns. We are hoping to use the conversation, the ideas brought forward and the solutions proposed to create a guidance document–perhaps even a manifesto–that can drive a continued conversation and even affect change.

In the meantime, leave your suggestions for discussion in the comments section here.

Image: slide from Kate Prengaman’s presentation.

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