Mythbusters’ Adam Savage On The Lack Of Women In STEM: “Shit’s Tough For Girls!”

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You know this face, and you certainly know the TV show he stars in that has a dedicated cult following around the world. Adam Savage, half of the ‘Mythbusters’ team make science and discovery look like fun, because in reality, there are a lot of fun thing about it, we just don’t often see that side of it in chemistry 101 at school. If we had the Mythbusters guys as our science teachers at school, we have no doubt there would be millions of girls who would’ve chosen different careers.

As it stands, today in the US the STEM industries (science, tech, engineering and math) are the fastest growing sector and there are currently over a million unfilled STEM jobs here. That’s an insane number, considering all the reports we hear about unemployment rates around the country.

Studies show there is a high drop off rate for girls for interest in science and math in school around the pre-teen age which experts say can be fixed by better cultural and parental encouragement.

Thank the Lord above for Google’s free coding initiatives for girls, and brands like Goldieblox trying to change the status quo for young girls. But are they enough? In an interview with Mother Jones, Adam Savage gives his take on why there aren’t more women in the science field, and how cultural ideals that stem from one of the world’s most powerful communication vehicles, Hollywood, has a lot to answer for.

“The problem I have is that I’m a white dude,” he said. “And I recognize that my privilege makes it impossible for me to say, ‘There should be more women in science’ without sounding like I’m proclaiming from on high. And so I take that position seriously.”

One of his ideas is to have better role models and greater visibility for younger girls to see real life examples of what a science career looks like.

“I bring women into the things I’m doing because they absolutely are part and parcel of all of the storytelling and the science and the scientific discovery that we do. And little girls need more role models in critical thinking. Absolutely. But I also recognize that that’s not me…I could be a little girl’s role model, but I’m not going to be her ideal role model. She needs a woman to do that.”

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He certainly is sympathetic to the added barrier of sexism that women have to deal with coming into a male-dominated field. Adam tells Mother Jones he has been following the gamergate scandal closely and understands “shit’s tough for girls”.

“I wish I understood it better,” he says. “Because I see it, and I have friends that suffer from it. And I worked with Kari Byron for 11 years, and I’ve watched the evolution of the terrible shit Kari’s had to deal with as a public figure and a woman and a science communicator.”

While he admits that his position of being a white guy on TV for 11 years leaves him a little more privileged than others, he doesn’t want to speak on behalf of any other guys, but when asked why he thinks there is so much rage directed at women trying to infiltrate the gaming and science worlds, he has a few thoughts.

“I have to imagine that our culture is constantly promoting impossible ideals,” he says. “Ideals of ownership, ideals of success, and ideals of body type. And women have suffered mightily from Hollywood’s ideas of what women should look like. It’s part and parcel of a deeply nihilistic view of consumer culture. I’m deeply addicted to it at the same time as I recognize it promotes some terrible ideas about what’s possible and what could make you happy.”

“And it’s genuinely sad that there’s a group out there that feels so unfulfilled that they feel the drive to push their lack of fulfillment outwards. Right? ‘I want to deny things to you…because I feel denied.’ That’s terrible.”

The notion of equality is something that by definition means men having to give up some of theirs to even out the odds. We can totally see how that would be threatening! Some see it as women wanting to swing the majority of power back in their hands, but let’s be honest, we’re certainly not in any “danger” of that happening, folks.

We agree with what Indre Viskontas says, that the type of people harassing, threatening and unleashing their anger on women online are only a minority, albeit a loud vocal minority, because when you meet someone like Adam Savage, who is an expert in his field, he doesn’t think the same as the negative people raising their voices.

Adam says he agrees with her but also mentions how power has a lot to do with it, because it is something everybody wants. He cites an example from the corporate world he once heard which says the only real power is the power to say “yes”. But the problem is that the only power most people in corporate culture actually have is the power to say no, and they use that as often as they can. The same possibly applies to gamergate and the group of men harassing women for making inroads into the STEM world.

“I’m not saying that’s a brush you can paint all of corporate culture with, but it is an interesting way to examine that feeling of power because I agree that it is a small group, but it is a group that has discovered it’s power, however long it may last, and are drunk on it.”

Whether you are interested in science or gaming or not, what we need more of is men’s voices in this ongoing conversation, and more female role models. Let’s not make it about who’s “giving up” power or status to make room for the women. The fact that there are over 1 million unfilled STEM jobs in the US alone shows there is a huge gap, and given the right encouragement and representation (minus all the hate and harassment) perhaps women can start filling those positions, become important and respected thought-leaders for the next generation and break the cycle of sexism that exists. Remember, STEM jobs are not gender-based jobs.

Three cheers to Adam Savage for sharing his thoughts and giving voice and permission to other men to speak up for equality.

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