Tuesday 13 October may appear to be just any other Tuesday and it may even pass by without much furore, but it is in fact Ada Lovelace day. Ada is thought to be the first female computer programmer and her name has been given to this otherwise nondescript Tuesday in order to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
A few of my friends and even yourself may be wondering why we need a day to celebrate female achievement in this area, but I think it becomes obvious when we think about the events happening over the past year. June saw the case of Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt, who famously told us about his "trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry". Tim's trouble with girls caused uproar on social media with #distractinglysexy trending on twitter and Tim Hunt's resignation. The resignation was met with criticism, as some believed this was an infraction of freedom of speech and yet fostering sexism within academia can create barriers for female academics.
Academics all over the world must publish their research in peer reviewed journals and sexist peer reviewers can generate obstacles for female researchers (this is but one example). In April Evolutionary geneticists Fiona Ingleby and Megan Head spoke out about peer review on Twitter. Ironically, the article they had written was on the topic of gender bias in academia and the response they received from the peer reviewer was to put more male names on the paper. The reviewer also criticised the interpretation of the results suggesting "it is not so surprising that on average male doctoral students co-author one more paper than female doctoral students, just as, on average, male doctoral students can probably run a mile race a bit faster than female doctoral students,".
These two instances have drawn attention to sexism within STEM, but in fact it appears that it is not only STEM which suffers from gender imbalances. A recent review of gender and tourism shows that in the UK at professorial level tourism suffers a higher gender imbalance skewed towards men than STEM. These professors are often reviewers and editors of academic journals as well as those sitting on recruitment panels and potentially deciders of what exactly is valid research. Ultimately, this can mean that gender-aware or feminist research within tourism is ignored, which is completely incomprehensible when two-thirds of the tourism work force on a global scale is female.
A further report analyses the gender gap within tourism academic leadership at a variety of instances and also offers up potential explanations. Explanations of such a vast gendered divide within tourism academic leadership are said to involve women's agency, gender discrimination, and potentially to a lesser extent generational factors. Yet, I urge you this Ada Lovelace Day to celebrate the triumphs of all female academics be they working within STEM, tourism or any academic field. Within tourism there are groups of academics working to change what may seem the status quo, please see http://equalityintourism.org/ http://www.tourismeducationfutures.org/about-tefi/gender-equity-in-the-tourism-ac or https://wp.nyu.edu/cts2015/about-cts/ for more details.