December 4, 2012 11:45 am

We need your help with another brief survey!

 Pioneer 10 spacecraft has this engraved gold-anodized aluminum plate featuring human forms and directions to planet Earth.  (NASA)

Surveys and exploration: we never know exactly what we’re going to find. Shown: Engraved plate featuring human forms and directions to planet Earth from the Pioneer 10 spacecraft. (NASA)

As a result of our recent survey, we discovered something that we’d like to change. It turns out that we have more men in our audience than women. Considerably more.

Now, this came as a bit of a surprise to me (Jeff), at least based on my interactions with our audience on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and in our comments on the blog and episodes here on the website.

After all, you all are not a silent audience. You let us know what you’re thinking. You let us know when we tell you something interesting, and you definitely let us know when you don’t agree with something that’s said on the show. And for the most part, gender isn’t hidden in social media, so I haven’t seen a vast gap in engagement based on that. We count among our fans some of the leading female scientists and bloggers out there today. (We could use more astronauts… but who couldn’t?)

So what are we going to do about this? We can’t just waive a magic wand and say, “Poof. Our audience is now balanced.”

We’re going to start by asking you to complete another survey. This one is gender based, so women click here and men click here. The goal is to get a better understanding of what topics women might want us to feature in future seasons of StarTalk Radio, what changes we can make to the show to make it more relevant and encourage more direct interaction with the show.

And please, we’re not talking about Pink Hondas or Pink Lego here. We’re definitely not suggesting that women need to be treated differently than men when it comes to science, nor do we believe it. We are simply recognizing that based on the reality of our audience, we can do a better job of programming content that is more universally appealing. And so we are turning to you, that audience, to help us figure it out.

Beyond the survey, you can also help by spreading the word about StarTalk Radio. If you’re reading this, you already know how much fun the show is. What a great job astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson does of combining celebrities and humor to make scientific topics fun. (As if physics isn’t a barrel of laughs in itself!) And if you do believe that, don’t keep it to yourself. Help us reduce the testosterone in our audience to an appropriate level that reflects the world in which we live and want to live, one where there are no barriers to learning about science, be they based on gender, race, age, class, or belief.

–Jeffrey Simons

  • Michele Norman

    Hi Jeff,

    While I appreciate your interest in balancing out your audience, the first question that came to mind was, “why?” An audience is an audience. I personally don’t see a valid reason to “reduce the testosterone in your audience to an appropriate level”. I believe that if you’re passionate about what you do, and do it well, the folks who resonate with the quality you produce will board the bus, and that is what is singularly most important. Along your same line of reasoning, I imagine there is also a disparity between adults and children among your audience. I would much rather see Star Talk bridge that gap and reach out to the younger (and sometimes brighter) segment of our population, rather than work on closing the gender gap. I have two precocious “tween” girls who love Neil and your show because I do. Inspiring young minds – male or female – is a good investment in the future. Meanwhile, I will glady complete your survey and hope it helps.


    PS: I don’t care at all for the color pink.

    • Jeff

      Great points, Michele, and they echo some of the conversation that has also been going on on our Facebook page. Perhaps “reduce” was a bad choice of words, and “balance” would have been better. While I agree with almost everything you say (my 8-year old daughter loves science on her own, and hates Bruce Springsteen and Melissa Etheridge, no matter how passionately I sing along with them), I think that part of our job is to communicate to all genders and all ages the importance and the joy of understanding science. If there is a different way to phrase that message, that helps someone stop and take a look rather than pass us by, and we can find that out by asking our audience, then the effort is worthwhile. As for survey length, well, you’re not the only person who said it was too long or involved, but actually, not nearly so many as might have been expected. Thank you for taking the time to both take the survey, and to comment.

  • Michele Norman

    PPS: Your survey is too long.


  • I am a HUGE fan of yours! My husband and I listen to your talks all the time! Our kids are learning about the stars from you.

    I would love to come to the Hayden Planetarium, but there’s one small problem. We live in Washington state, next to Mt St Helens. We do have a wonderful science museum in Portland, Oregon called OMSI. I would love to actually meet you, if you ever come to Portland.

    I am a whole-hearted supporter of science! I hope that my daughter is smart enough to become an elite scientist! She’s a brilliant little girl and I hope she shares her knowledge with the world!

  • Jessica H

    I think this is a wonderful survey and a wonderful effort. As a woman who loves science, I wish I had more exposure to it when I was younger. If a show like this were around when I was in high school, I would be working at CERN right now!

    I appreciate your desire to increase your female fan base by asking your current female fan base what makes us fans! Good job on wanting to creat a more balanced audience–science is for everyone.

    p.s. My favorite color is blue, I love Star Trek, and my favorite phenomenon in the Universe is Jupiter’s magnetosphere. But I also love the color pink, shoes, and other girly things.

    • Jeff

      Jessica, I wasn’t dissing pink (my daughter’s and my wife’s favorite color), only the idea that you can slap a color on something to make it appealing rather than making the thing appealing in and of itself.

  • Tom

    If it’s too long, hit the little x button in the corner

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  • June

    Took your survey …
    I would echo the comment above Why?
    I work with many women and sadly very few have any interest (although I have no interest in what they watch- so it’s even)
    You should have seen the looks I received when I was excited and telling everyone my son & I were going to one of the live shows… “Neil who? he’s a what?”

    As for the survey.. the question about kids- needed an option for adult children still at home

    • Jeff

      Thanks for the suggestion, June. I’ll pass it on.

  • I started taking the survey, but since I’m brand new here, I couldn’t answer all the questions. So I thought I’d comment here. I’ve listened to a few of your shows so far, and it appears you have a balance of women and men as guests. But I’m just as interested in hearing from Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, and Alan Rickman as from any female guests.

    Still, I am heartened to hear of your efforts to involve women more. Like Jessica, I think if I’d had a program like yours to listen when I was in high school, I might be working for NASA! As it is, my nine-year-old niece has shown great interest in astronomy. Perhaps I’ll introduce her to this show.

    I’m thrilled to have discovered your site (I follow you on Facebook). Come to think of it, I’m overdue for a visit to the Museum of Natural History… (My parents brought us there often when we were kids!)

  • MeTal Gear

    If I’m being honest, I’ve always believed guys are more interested in most of the science topics startalk deals with. Anything to do with space and aliens has always been an interest of guys in my experience. (Not to mention star trek ,science fiction in general video games which I think no one disagrees that its practically a guy thing). So I was not surprised at all that startalk audience are mainly guys. Its scientific topics have always been a guy thing. In my experience that is.