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Female scientists react to ‘boys with toys’ comment by sharing their own engineering endeavours

Female scientists and engineers around the world have put their weight behind a #GirlsWithToys campaign on Twitter, in response to a casually sexist comment made by a leading astronomer.

Shrinivas Kulkarni, a planetary science professor at the California Institute of Technology, referred to scientists as "boys with toys" in an interview with US media outlet NPR

"We astronomers are supposed to say, 'We wonder about the stars and we really want to think about it,'" Kulkarni said. 

"Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call 'boys with toys'. I really like playing around with telescopes. It's just not fashionable to admit it."

His remarks understandably dismayed people who have campaign hard to increase the visibility of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, and blow away the stereotype that these are predominantly male arenas of interest.

But rather than get annoyed, prominent academics and researchers got behind a #GirlsWithToys hashtag to broadcast the incredible work that they do - often with big and vastly complicated 'toys'.

Dr. Shrinivas Kulkarni

Dr. Shrinivas Kulkarni

Their inspiring messages open the door to a vast and fascinating world of scientific research that covers everything from mechanical engineer Chelsea Partridge's role leading a NASA satellite experiment to planetary physicist Sarah Stewart doing shock experiments to study planetary collisions and NASA Datanaut Marianne Mader meteorite hunting in Antarctica.

Many amateur enthusiasts also tweeted their support, by sharing snaps of their young daughters conducting physics experiments. Still others tweeted photos of famous female astronomers through history, such as American "Mother of Hubble" Nancy Grace Roman, who was a key force in planning the Hubble Space Telescope. 

Currently, only 13% of all STEM jobs in the UK are occupied by women, and organisations such as the WISE Campaign are working to increase that figure. Come take a look at the #GirlsWithToys campaign so far, below. 

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