Bournemouth University’s Women’s Academic Network (WAN) hosted a webinar discussing the online abuse of female scientists in the public sphere. The virtual event invited a panel of esteemed female scientists to talk about their shared experiences on the realities of online abuse to a gathered audience of BU staff, students and general public. The Panel included:
- Professor Susan Michie, Professor Health Psychology, University College London and an Independent Sage member.
- Dr Deepti Gurdasani, Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning, Queen Mary, University of London and an Independent Sage member.
- Professor Christina Pagel, Professor of Operational Research, University College London and an Independent Sage member.
Professor Sara Ashencaen Crabtree, Co-convenor of the Women’s Academic Network at BU hosted the webinar discussing the online abuse of female scientists in the public sphere. She said: "Down long centuries, women have continually been beaten down by this kind of sexist pronouncement aimed at shutting them up, whether delivered overtly or covertly, aggressively or with mock chivalry. In the public sphere of online fora little, it seems, has changed for women, no matter their expertise or the gravity of societal problems their messages seek to address, as in the case of our eminent Independent Sage scientists' colleagues. These continuous and vile attacks are not only pathetically outmoded, but they are also outrageously misogynistic, socially irresponsible, and democratically dangerous.”
The Independent Sage member panellists, whose cutting-edge work on the on-going Covid-19 pandemic has been widely shared across the British media, spoke about their own personal experience of online harassment and abuse relating to their work. Other issues discussed included how online abusers were using social media platforms to direct their abuse at female scientists, as well as freedom of speech and its impact on online abuse.
Dr Emma Kavanagh, who chaired the discussions, spoke about being committed to continuing to raise awareness of online harassment, and to seek ways to protect women, saying: “There is far more work to be done to prepare people to navigate social media spaces and protect themselves online. What I found so powerful was the resilience of our panellists and their trust in the work they are doing, which prevents them from being silenced, even if that would be the easy option. There is work to be done to support and prepare other women to thrive in these spaces which prove so challenging.”
The free event which took place on 29 April 2022 was opened by BU’s Pro-Chancellor, Dr Sue Sutherland, OBE, who also introduced the speakers.
BU regularly hosts events open for the public to attend, with more information on the events pages of the BU website.