A story in College Fix relates how an MIT librarian who describes herself as a “’butch and queer’ cis woman and ‘feral librarian’” has an interesting proposal to make tech workplaces more welcoming to women. She suggests expunging them of posters that promote “geek culture” such as “Star Trek” and replacing them with more of what she considers gender friendly graphics depicting nature and so on. She also suggests not naming printers, domains, and other things after male figures from Greek mythology.

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Her name, by the way, is Chris Bourg. No kidding.

Gender stereotyping of ‘Star Trek’ fans

Ms. Bourg’s analysis is based on a gender stereotype that depicts fans of “Star Trek [VIDEO]” and science fiction in general as being exclusively male.

However, a study by sociologist John Tenuto suggests that this is not so. The universe of Trek fans are primarily but not exclusively male, about 78 percent men and 22 percent women. However, the hardcore fans who attend conventions break down to 51 percent male and 49 percent female. Women have been heavily involved in running Trek conventions and organized fandom from the beginning.

Strong female characters in ‘Star Trek’

Star Trek” has traditionally depicted strong female characters. Even the original show, produced during the “Mad Men” era of the 1960s, has figures such as Lt. Uhura (who was also a woman of color). Think also of more modern characters such as Dr. Crusher from TNG, Major Kira from DS9, T’Pol and Hoshi Sato from “Star Trek: Enterprise” and, of course, the incomparable Captain Janeway from “Star Trek: Voyager.” The one thing that Trek in particular proved is that women characters were just as capable as their male counterparts, which makes the show in its various incarnations attractive to women fans.

Junk social science

While Tenuto’s study surveyed thousands of fans, the survey that Bourg cited included just 39 test subjects, 22 women, and 17 men, and was not conducted in a controlled environment. With such a small sampling, the results have to be taken with an enormous grain of salt. However, the study could be used as an excuse to disrupt workplace culture in the STEM world in the name of gender equality. If such an effort were to be seriously mounted, resentment and acrimony would be the likely results.

A modest suggestion

The key to making a tech workplace more welcoming to women, if such is necessary, is to plaster more science fiction themed posters, not less. However, as a concession to the feminists, by all means, be sure that female characters are included. Male scientists and engineers will not object to seeing the visages of Princess Leia or Kaylee from “Firefly” and if such inspires the women more, then so much the better.