Parasitologists have raised a ruckus over the fact that not enough newly discovered species of parasitic worms are being named after women.
A team of scientists in the field of studying parasitic organisms led by parasitologist Robert Poulin, “scoured studies in eight journals published between 2000 and 2020” and found that of the 596 species named after eminent scientists, only 111 were named after women.
The figure, which makes up 19% of the total number of parasitic worms named after people, has become the subject of some controversy according to New Zealand’s University of Otago.
“And of 71 scientists honoured in the Latin names of two or more species, only eight were women,” Sky News reported. “Eight scientists who had lent their names to six or more species were men.”
“We found a consistent gender bias among species named after eminent scientists, with male scientists being immortalized disproportionately more frequently than female scientists,” the study’s authors said, publishing their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.
This distinct lack of gender parity in naming the parasitic worms is said to be a problem they expect to see continue unabated, with “no evidence of improving over time in the past two decades.”
The scientists blamed “etymological nepotism and cronyism” in choosing the names, arguing that taxonomists tend to name newly discovered species after family members and close friends — a problem, they claim, that has only increased over the past two decades.
The parasitologists warned that scientists who name species after celebrities may regret doing so in the event that those individuals suffer a “fall from grace,” presumably through cancel culture that’s become dominant in today’s social landscape.
The women’s science advocacy group AAUW, whose “foundation and vision is to advance gender equity for women and girls” in the fields of science and technology, notes that women make up only 28% of the workforce in STEM fields.
The gender gap means that men vastly outnumber women majoring in science, particularly in specialized fields like parasitology.
The reason more of the parasitic worms were named after men is simply because there are more men in science than women, which is to say that the reason for the disparity is a legacy issue rather than the product of malice or “cronyism.”