In the continuing vein of women and science (see my previous post Flirt Harder, I’m a Physicist in particular), I was just forwarded a link to L’Oreal’s postdoctoral fellowships for women scientists. I remember L’Oreal. I remember them from when I was at a conference for the American Physical Society (APS), talking with some colleagues at an exhibit hall. Some guy from L’Oreal came by and handed me some mascara along with a brochure. I jokingly asked why I got the mascara, and not my male colleagues. The L’Oreal guy laughed a little uncomfortably and my colleagues expressed their complete lack of interest in mascara.
I felt uncomfortable enough in that moment to have remembered it now, years later. Yet, it was actually pretty good mascara (I’ve still got it), and what the heck, I got something typically “feminine” in a typically male venue. Should I feel empowered by my gift of mascara? Maybe what was uncomfortable was that it highlighted my gender in a venue where we try to ignore such personal characteristics. See my earlier post on stereotype threat, where I discuss how we’re afraid of doing something that will reflect negatively on our gender when our minority status is highlighted.
Anyway. I think the L’Oreal fellowships are pretty great. They make money by exploiting our culture’s focus on women’s appearance, so why not give some of that money back to women who aren’t conforming to the stereotypes and are using their brains in science. Though one thing I found curious — they ask for (optional) a photo attachment on the application. Is that normal? They also highlight the achievements of women in science around the world.