- How Science Works
- Sources and Experts: Where to Find Them and How to Vet Them
- Making Sense of Science Stats
- Editing for Story
- Editing Controversial Science
- Holding Science to Account
- Covering Health Care
- Climate and the Environment
- Fact-Checking Science Journalism: How to Make Sure Your Stories Are True
Illustrating Complex Science Stories
- The Role of Visuals in Science Journalism
- The Process of Building Science-Centric Graphics
- Strategies for Using Visuals to Put Breaking Science in Context
- Special Considerations for Data Visualization
- Uncertainty and Misinformation
- Editorial Illustration, Photography, and Moving Images
- Additional Reading and Resources
- About the Author
- Social Media and Reader Engagement
- Popular Science
- Op-Eds and Essays
- About This Handbook
Ensuring Gender and Racial Diversity
By Melinda Wenner Moyer / 2 minute read
One key problem with science — and many other disciplines — is that many of the most successful and vocal experts are white men. There are, of course, many reasons for this gender and racial imbalance. In addition to blatant gender discrimination, men can have an easier time rising to the top because they’re less burdened by cultural expectations surrounding child-rearing. White scientists, too, do not experience the kind of racial discrimination that scientists of color do, which can hold them back in their careers in various ways.
Website To Know
500 Women Scientists
This website represents marginalized women in science and works to transform leadership, diversity, and public engagement in science. Journalists can use their “Request a Woman Scientist” service to find female scientists working in particular disciplines or locales.
Though it takes work, journalists should strive for gender and racial balance in their stories if the fields they are covering are at least somewhat diverse. Often, reporters don’t realize just how skewed their source representation is. When Adrienne LaFrance, executive editor of The Atlantic, evaluated source diversity in the articles she had written in 2015, she discovered that just 22 percent of her sources had been women. In 2016 the science reporter Ed Yong, also with The Atlantic, ran an analysis of the pieces he’d published so far that year and found that only 24 percent of his quoted sources were women, and that 35 percent of his stories featured no female voices at all.
People — including scientists — notice when these imbalances make their way into your journalism. A few years ago, the digital magazine Spectrum — whose editorial team at the time was composed entirely of women — ran a piece on the genetics of autism research that quoted only men. A female researcher contacted Apoorva Mandavilli, who was then Spectrum’s editor in chief, to express her disappointment. “She said, ‘Imagine how I felt when I read this piece and you didn’t quote a single female geneticist,’” Mandavilli recalls. “And it was like a dagger through my heart. While we work so hard at this, we still messed up. It just takes a lot of vigilance.”
When reading papers, I will specifically look down the author list for any feminine names.Natalie Wolchover, senior editor and writer, Quanta
Indeed, the more reporters and editors think about and aim for source diversity, the more they can achieve it. “When I notice that my sources — especially those I will be quoting — are too homogenous, I make a concerted effort to include more diverse voices by redoubling my search efforts and asking experts to recommend additional colleagues I might consult,” says Ferris Jabr, a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine. Sometimes he specifically asks sources to recommend “colleagues that are doing great work but haven’t received as much attention from the media.”
It can help when writers (and editors) hold themselves accountable, too. When Yong began tracking source diversity in a spreadsheet, he found that his female-source percentage went up quickly, eventually hovering around 50 percent. Spectrum, too, now maintains a source spreadsheet, which includes many young, female, and racially and ethnically diverse scientists. “That’s made a big difference,” Mandavilli says.