The Clothes Don’t Make the Scientist

I’m a volcanologist, which means I spend part of my time outside hiking, getting up close and personal with rocks and ash and clay, and generally engaged in grubby pursuits. My field clothes are practical, protective, and comfortable. When I’m in the office, I also dress in what makes me comfortable – jeans and a t-shirt, dresses, skirts, slacks, whatever. If I’m out communicating science or engaging in science policy in places like Capitol Hill, I might be wearing a suit or ‘career dress’. And when I’m off duty, sometimes I cosplay as superheroes and sci-fi characters.

But no matter what I’m wearing, I AM a scientist. My clothing and makeup change nothing about my ability to do my work, or the expertise I’ve acquired. I wear what I deem appropriate to the setting, and I’m happy to disabuse people of the notion that my wearing lipstick somehow means I’m not competent at my job.

I use my social media presence to call out sexist stereotyping based on clothing and poorly conceived media coverage of women scientists (, and I do it in person as well. It takes courage and a level of comfort that I’m lucky to have with my colleagues, but it’s important to do. And I will keep on doing it for myself and for others, because I would love, someday, to be able to wear a cape to work.