Update Monday, June 20th at 8 AM: ASM has removed the video from YouTube. Scroll to the end of this post to see ASM’s responses on Twitter.
Update Monday, June 20th at 11 AM: ASM has edited the video to make it solely about explaining your science to a lay person in 30 seconds. See new version here.
So I checked out the link, and it leads to a video that ASM has uploaded to YouTube called “Can you explain your science in 30 seconds to your mom?” (UPDATE: link no longer works; video has been removed). The video was created by two ASM staff members (a video producer and a media specialist) during last week’s ASM Microbe 2016 meeting in Boston. It starts with a cartoon of a young male scientist and a voice over with the challenge to “explain your science in 30 seconds”, followed by a dramatic pause, followed by: “TO YOUR MOM?”
The two ASM staff members then enter the Boston conference building and challenge 8 young scientists to do an elevator pitch. Most of them fail the test. But one scientist does really well, and she wins the contest.
But back to the title of the video. The question apparently assumes that moms are, well, not that smart. And that moms will look completely puzzled when you tell them your science. And that moms wear purple flowery dresses.
Since the ASM conference was during the Father’s Day weekend, why didn’t the video makers use the title “Can you explain your science in 30 seconds to your dad?” Did they think that that challenge would sound easier?
Anyway, it’s just a little annoyance. Just one of those many tiny disappointments women in science feel almost daily. By itself, it’s not even worth mentioning. But all these tiny sad moments do add up, especially when we see that biology labs and conference halls are filled with at least 50% women, but when the speaker podiums and panel tables only filled up with less than 30% women.
Dear American Society for Microbiology, I really love you for all you have done for women in science, but this video sets you back at least 20 years, and is a disappointment for the many women who are a member of the ASM.
Next morning update: ASM has removed the video. They don’t offer any apologies to moms, but they will try to do better in the future. Here are their replies on Twitter.
And here is their official reply on the Youtube comments: