Fossils & Ruins Researcher news SMU In The News Subfeature

If women scientists wore fake facial hair, would men take them more seriously?

DALLAS (SMU) – Bonnie Jacobs is a world-renowned paleobotanist at SMU (Southern Methodist University) who specializes in the plant fossil record and what it reveals about past communities, ecosystems and climate. Her work in Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia has helped document the origins and evolution of Africa’s modern biomes, as well as shed light on the environmental context of human family origins.

But she felt she needed to don a mustache and a beard to make a point.

Dr. Alisa Winkler, Vertebrate paleontologist, Southern Methodist University. Above: Dr. Bonnie Jacobs, Paleobotanist, Southern Methodist University. Credit for both photographs: 2015 Kelsey Vance

So did Alisa Winkler, an anatomy professor at UT Southwestern who also conducts research on fossil rodents, rabbits and other ancient mammals at SMU.

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History called the “The Bearded Lady Project,” is drawing attention to the sexism that female paleontologists still face in the pursuit of their careers. The exhibit features portraits of women engaged in paleontology research – many in difficult and remote locations – while wearing false beards or mustaches. The tongue-in-cheek question being asked through the exhibit is, “Would they have been granted more respect and credibility had they been men?”

You can read more about this exhibit in The Dallas Morning News here.

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