At first I thought I was in trouble. Why else would the US Ambassador contact me? My husband jokingly suggested that I was being recruited to join the long list of archaeologists who have been spies in the Middle East.
Spoiler Alert: No. (and ew.)
I was asked to join 15 other women (and ITN reporter Alok Jha) to discuss women in the sciences. This was inspired in part by the recent #distractinglysexy campaign wherein women posted photos in reaction to extremely sexist remarks by an unnamed Nobel laureate. The point wasn’t so much an attempt to destroy this man’s career as to make the every day sexism in sciences visible by laughing at it. Playing along, I posted a photo of me and Louise Felding in a building at Çatalhöyük.
I liked the photo because both of us are so absorbed in our work, so completely immersed in figuring out the Neolithic puzzle. Honestly I was probably cussing–there were several burials in that rotten platform and they held us up all season. Sexy? Well, as they say, YMMV.
So I scrubbed myself up, got out the usual business attire/conference gear/that dress that covers most of my tattoos and went down to London. The house itself is a bit funny–very French regency meets American sensibility. Let’s just say, the toilets are gilded. There was actually a lot of incredible contemporary art, but all I managed to get a photo of was the teacups:
Typical archaeologist, always interested in the crockery.
It was an interesting mix of science communicators and a few scientists in there as well. We all spoke briefly to introduce ourselves, then presented an opportunity and a challenge regarding women in science. While most of the presenters bemoaned the lack of women in sciences, I told them that we have a large amount of women in archaeology, how exciting that is, and how we are foundational to other sciences–providing bridges to computer science and biology in particular, using the examples of the Centre for Digital Heritage and BioArCh at York. For the challenge I mentioned that though we have a lot of women, archaeology & heritage funding was being threatened by both the US and the UK governments and that it was vital to fight for it to continue to provide a link for women to the sciences.
So, as an archaeologist some days you are out in the dirt,
being distractingly sexy doing research and some days you are drinking out of gilded teacups with Matthew Barzun and talking about how important it is that women are involved in science.
I’m not going to lie though, the best part of the day was meeting these trowelblazers: