Monday, March 7, 2011

Women Who Are Scared of Science

The Seven Liberal Arts by Marten de Vos, 1590Image via Wikipedia
One of my missions in writing mystery novels is creating role models for women that weren't there when I was coming along. I love developing protagonists who are scientists or entrepreneurs in science-based businesses. There are a myriad of careers today from biotech to nanoscience where women are making their mark in the lab and in the board room. I feel my part is helping to see that these career women show up in fiction too! And I dream of the version that ends up on the big screen as well!

Unfortunately, I have encountered a teensy problem with writing about female entrepreneurs in technology businesses. Women readers are scared of plots that hinge on science. They are concerned they won't be able to follow the techno talk and the twists and turns of scientific nuance that are the meat and potatoes of the thriller genre. Many of the bloggers who received review copies of my book cracked the book open with fear and trepidation, only to be surprised that they COULD follow the genetic engineering lingo. After all the progress that has been made in our educational institutions, we still have a gender gap when it comes to feeling comfortable about scientific content.

I worked very hard to make my book accessible to my readership. I was in medical and high tech PR for most of my career, and I got pretty good a 'translating' leading edge science into prose lay people could follow. However, I can't do anything about the perception a reader might have when she reads the back cover blurb.

What can we do about this? First of all, I think we have to start young. I don't think I am the one to do this, but I would like some fellow writer to take on a Nancy Drew type series that features a young girl who is a science jock (pardon the distaff metaphor). This would be so much more worthwhile than all these heroines we have who are pining away over boy vampires. Maybe we could get a sponsorship from a big corporation for grants to writers who are creating content that elevates the role of women in science. There are a number of women's science organizations who also should focus on this issue.

Science is not something to be afraid of. It just is. I look forward to the day when women readers react the same way whether the heroine works for Pfizer or Prada. Guys who read my stuff never think twice about getting through the science even if they are liberal arts majors. They worry about whether they can get through the shopping episodes...
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1 comment:

  1. A noble mission, Katherine, and one I heartily support. (And retweet)


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