Once again, a public figure assumed that only men were involved in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Often called the “hard” sciences, STEM programs do tend to have more men than women – but that’s something that women have been working to change for years. From the National Girls Collaborative Project that encourages young girls to explore STEM to the recent White House commitment to women in STEM, the gender disparity is shrinking every day. But that didn’t stop Shrinivas Kulkarni, astronomy and planetary sciences professor at the California Institute of Technology, from putting his foot in his mouth. Kulkarni was interviewed on NPR in mid-May, and while discussing astronomers, said that “many scientists are what I call ‘boys with toys.’ I really like playing around with telescopes. It’s just not fashionable to admit it.”
Kulkarni ignoring the many women in the field of astronomy did not go unnoticed. Very quickly, the #GirlsWithToys hashtag was trending, with female scientists posting pictures of themselves with their “toys” – whether those toys were Mars rovers, lab equipment, or those telescopes that they love playing around with. The popularity of the hashtag made a strong statement that female scientists and engineers are here, and they’re not going to sit back and let the “boys” dominate the field.