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We, a group of PhD students and Postdocs, are organizing, with the help of the Gender Equality task team of IRISA/Inria-RBA, a reading circle for young researchers (PhD students and Postdocs) to read books on feminist topics within Computer Science together and share our thoughts and experiences.
The goal of this reading circle is to learn collectively and to propose a space for exchange.
We don’t judge the opinion of others and we respectfully discuss different point of views.
As we are all young researchers, we understand when someone has a busy week and can’t join the weekly meeting from time to time. We also summarize the discussed points in a common wiki.
Due to the current sanitary context, all meetings are online.
To include all young researches, we focus on English books.
The language of the discussion can be adapted to the participants of the reading circle (French/English).


Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested to join the reading circle via litterature-egalite@inria.fr
Current organizers: Camille and Véronne


Everyone can make suggestions and then we make a poll to decide together which one we read next.
A source of ideas is this list of feminist literature in Computer Science we initiated with the Gender Equality task team.
In the following we briefly summarize the books we already read.

7th edition (Starting soon!) : Inferior – Angela Saini

6th edition : The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science – Julie Des Jardins

5th edition: Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley – Emily Chang

4th edition: Numérique, compter avec les femmes – Anne-Marie Kermarrec

3rd edition: Gender Gap in Science – A global approach to the gender gap in Mathematical, Computing, and Natural Sciences

After the child book and the personal report we read before, we searched for a more data driven book for the third edition of our reading circle.
This is how we found this book on the gender gap in science, freely available here.
It reports on a 3-year international project, where many different scientific organizations were involved.
The main goal of the project was to investigate the gender gap in STEM for different research areas, often broken down to different countries/regions and looking at it from various angles.
For instance, they did a global survey of scientists and present their findings in many diagrams.
Furthermore, they evaluated the data of many scientific publication platforms and they also collected a set of different best-practice initiatives.
Maybe the main drawback from our point of view was that the field Computer Science was not presented in the publication patterns part – which made big parts of the book not “applicable” to our personal research field.
Sometimes, we were a bit overwhelmed by the many diagrams and data.
On the positive side, the book includes many links to deepen the reading.
Overall, we found the data driven and scientifically proper book we searched for.

2nd edition: The Only Woman in the Room – Why Science is Still a Boys Club – Eileen Pollack

The author Eileen Pollack is one of the first women who graduated in Physics at Yale University in the United States in the 1960ies.
In this book, she writes about her personal experiences before coming to Yale (Part 1), while studying at Yale (Part 2) and when she returns to Yale when writing this book (Part 3).
The narrative of the book is quite personal, which makes it hard to put her experiences in a more general context. It was not always easy for us to connect with the story of a woman in the 1960ies, who additionally describes herself as Jewisch and coming from a working class. We took it as an occassion to compare our experiences (which are already quite diverse with participants from different countries and different studies) with the one described in the book. However, we all felt that she still owes us the answer to the question of the book’s title: Why is science still a boys club? On the positive side, we thought a lot about 1) the impact of the teachers/professors on our academic way, 2) the pros and cons of beeing within a minority (with respect to gender/class/religion/skin) and 3) the personal well-being during our studies.

1st edition: The Matilda Effect – Ellie Irving

With a lot of humor, Ellie Irving tells the story of young Matilda and her grandmother Joss, making their incredible journey to make sure that Joss finally receives the honour she deserves as a scientist.
The book does not only made us think about gender, but also about age. It definitely made us laugh hard and stimulated interesting discussions about women in science at the same time. You should not expect from the book to give you concrete elements (like numbers or explanations) on the topic, but rather a kind reminder, accessible for everyone, that there is still some work to do to get to gender equality. More than once, we were impressed by the strong girl Matilda, who acted quite differently to what we remember from ourselves at her age. Also the grandma Joss is a strong character, developing during the book, which gained a lot of our respect at the end of the story.

Last update: 29 September 2022

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