Women are Boring is a digital footprint with a unique agenda – to provide a platform for critical research undertaken by women worldwide. Since 2016, WaB has developed into the nucleus for a very special kind of subversive orbit. Today in 2018 the much loved women’s research website continues to shine a light on the strides made by women who research.
Challenging the status quo in research
Very often, socially impactful academic research is placed behind a paywall, inaccessible to the general public. This invariably means that research becomes a question of wealth and a virtue of those in a position to trade wealth for knowledge. This relationship between knowledge, wealth and access is a deep rooted flaw of academia and acts as a contradiction in the system – a ‘catch 22’ – whereby the researcher is motivated by the desire to have a positive impact on society and meticulously produces a solid, robust piece of research, only for this research to be read by other academics and not the people whom it is most relevant to. The result: good research with limited impact.
WaB does not publish full research papers. However the knowledge sharing space created by Catherine Connolly and Grace McDermott, two PhD candidates at DCU, just two years ago links people to research in an accessible way. In addition to side stepping the knowledge tax, WaB acts a force of positive discrimination, readdressing the historical biases that have gendered societal perceptions and records about women’s contributions to research. Take Wikipedia as an example. There have been some very revealing conversations about gender bias in the worlds most popular encyclopaedia which underscore the need for projects like Women are Boring.
Some of the main points:
- Under 30 percent of entries on Wikipedia are on women.
- The vast majority of Wikipedia editors are men.
- Women’s entries are more likely to link to a man’s (and not vice versa).
- Entries on women mathematicians are more likely to be questioned or ear marked for deletion by editors.
Very often, women who push the boundaries of their field are awarded a distinct recognition of their achievements, and in many cases this recognition comes much later than it should. Take the astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818 – 1889). Maria was a groundbreaking researcher and academic, recognised among many other accolades (one being the first American scientist to discover a comet) as the first professional woman astronomer of the United States. She was also an advocate for women’s education rights – a co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Women – yet if you Google search for articles under ‘top 10 American astronomers of all time’, it is a distinctly male affair with no Maria Mitchell in sight.
‘Fascinating Research by Interesting Women’
There are currently 84 women researchers on the WaB database, who have covered a plethora of social and scientific fields which are so numerous that one curious click on the website can easily lead to an entire afternoon spent amongst brightly lit arguments and insights.
In the past year we took part in numerous events to talk about the women whose research is featured on the site, why academic research is so important, and why we need women experts featured in media. Grace and I hoped that in some small way we were achieving what we set out to do when we created the site – to increase public engagement with academic research, to enhance the visibility of the women doing that research, and to improve the representation of women as experts. (Catherine Connolly, co-founder of Women are Boring)
Carrying the torch for oft overlooked social groups in research, the absence of any academic ‘floof’ or paywall to knowledge is a further testament to the relentless drive and impassioned motivation that women researchers channel into their work on a daily basis.