During a panel discussion at the World Science Festival this past weekend, a female theoretical physicist and professor experienced a routine many women are familiar with. Thankfully, one brave audience member helped the scientist's voice be heard.
Veronika Hubeny, an expert in string theory, was part of the “Pondering the Imponderables” panel discussion at John Jay College in New York. As the only woman in a group of six panelists, she seemed to be often ignored. With moderator Jim Holt of the New Yorker dominating the discussion, The Independent reports, things became unbearable when she was, once again, kept from discussing her own area of expertise.
That's when one female voice yelled from the auditorium: “Let her speak, please!”
After shaming the moderator and the other panelists, others in the audience applauded the brave soul who stood up for the professor. In no time, Hubeny was finally able to express her views.
In a Facebook post, Marilee Talkington, also known as the brave audience member who told Holt to let Hubeny speak, shared the entire experience and discussed what motivated her to do something.
After the panel discussion was over, Talkington revealed that countless audience members approached her, thanking her for doing what she did.
Speaking to reporters, Talkington said she felt moved and encouraged at “how affected the other audience members were when I spoke up.” If anything, she continued, this entire incident gave her “a deep sense that change was literally one small act away.”
A sentiment was even shared by Hubeny herself, who also commented on Talkington's post.
"I applaud your heroism in standing up for what you believe in!” she wrote in her comment. “I know well the shaky feeling and subsequent exhilarated contentment in the knowledge of having done the right thing, and I think that doing so has become more crucial than ever. Your behavior was inspiring, and I’m glad that many of those inspired shared their gratitude with you.”
When discussing the incident with Buzzfeed News, Hubeny said that while she did have difficulties making her reply, she did not “ascribe it to sexism.”
“I can easily imagine the moderator was just overzealous and unfortunately clumsy in recognizing how it could appear to others,” she said.
Still, women in science, much like women in tech, often face hurdles that many of their male counterparts aren't often aware of, such as harassment. So seeing someone standing for what she believes in, as Hubeny wrote in her comment, is something to be celebrated as it can be hard to do, and we all should applaud her for her bravery.