Tweet about academic equality goes viral

29-05-2018

What can men do to become better allies for women and other minorities in science? This is the question cognitive scientist Iris van Rooij asked on Twitter. To her own surprise, the tweet went viral.

On the 9th of May, Iris van Rooij joined a panel discussion about women and gender minorities in cognitive neuroscience.

After the discussion, it turned out that one of the question that were sent in, ‘What can men do to be better allies for women/minorities in science’, was not addressed during the debate. ‘That’s why I started a twitter thread a week later, in which I invited people to make suggestions, so I could collect answers.’

Van Rooij’s tweets were liked, retweeted and answered over a thousand times. During this conversation, her phone keeps on vibrating.

Did you get a clear answer to your question?
‘I received many answers, that I grouped into around twenty suggestions. A proposition that was made a lot: many problems would be solved if people listened to each other more. In particular, people who are used to have many opinions and share them.’

‘Also important: when you are an ally, you have to sincerely be one. Not because it is hip, or it elevates your status, but because you really want to help.’

‘When you are an ally, you have to sincerely be one’

‘Somebody wondered what he could do when, during a meeting, someone interrupts a woman and takes over her point, without giving credit to her. Another person reacted to that and said: Take over yourself, repeat the point the woman was making and ask her to go on.’

‘This thread was specifically about how men can be allies for women, but the discussion can also be applied to black, homosexual and other minorities.’

Why is it that these tweets touched a nerve?
‘I am asking myself that as well: I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming response. The reactions show that many men are willing to give up privileges and spend time and energy in creating more equality within the academic world. That is hopeful, because many men and women think this is not the case. Maybe the times are changing.’

‘It can also be the medium. Maybe it is easier to find like-minded souls on Twitter than somewhere else.’

Did you also receive negative reactions?
‘Five percent of the reactions was negative, at most. That is not a lot, for Twitter. But I prefer not to pay attention to that: I want to send a positive message to the world.’

Are you planning on doing anything with the results?
‘Some people advise me to write a blog with an overview of the best suggestions. I might do that. But above all, I am very active on Twitter: I will keep addressing these issues on social media.’

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