A female astrophysicist has sparked a debate about "microaggressions" faced by women in science and technology after tweeting about an experience at airport security.
Amber Roberts describes herself on Twitter as an "AI program director, astrophysicist, science communicator and machine learning engineer" and has nearly 43,000 followers on Instagram under the handle "Astronomer Amber".
She wrote on Tuesday, "*I take out both of my laptops at airport security* Random guy: *scoffs* 'What do you need 2 laptops for?' Me: 'Well one is for my astrophysics work and one is for my artificial intelligence work.' #priceless #WomenInSTEM #womenintech #ai #GirlBoss"
The tweet quickly went viral with more than 28,000 retweets and 200,000 likes. She followed it up with a series of tweets after it was mockingly posted to Reddit, arguing it proved her original point.
"I am now trending on r/Iamverysmart. If anyone is curious as to why women might feel unwelcome in tech, check it out. To be clear about the guy asking about my laptops he was talking down to me using a patronising voice, he also asked twice believing I owed him an explanation," she wrote.
"What saddens me about the subreddit is that no one is commenting on the fact that the guy didn't deserve an answer, but are focusing on why I don't need two laptops. Also that there is no way 'this girl' could be considered an expert in both fields. #genderbias"
She added, "This isn't the first, nor will it be the last time something like this happens to me. The reason I am sharing this experience is because these are important things to keep in mind when we are trying to solve the problem of getting more women involved in tech. #womenintech"
Users on Twitter debated the issue. "Woman on Twitter: 'A man scoffed at me' Half the men on twitter: *scoffing* I bet he didn't. The irony, it burns," one wrote.
Another said, "This thread reminds me that people are ignorant. Sorry you had to deal with that random guy and also these people. Being asked and being ridiculed are two totally different things apparently people don't understand."
Others questioned whether the man was being rude or simply asking an innocent question or trying to start a conversation. "I applaud you for your crazy amazing skill set," one person wrote. "However, whether I were a man or a woman, if I saw any man or woman with two laptops, I would have asked the same thing out of curiosity, not to be disparaging."
Ms Roberts later tweeted, "A lot of great people are telling me to stay strong, but I'm honestly fine!! Having male strangers explain my own field to me is just another Tuesday. What I want people to take away from this discussion is that women leave male dominated fields due to CONSTANT microaggressions."
She added, "What happened by itself wasn't a big deal, I didn't even think much about it, just that it would make an entertaining tweet. Normally one big event is not what stops women from pursuing a field, it's death by a thousand cuts. This is just ONE TINY example of what happens DAILY!"
She told The Daily Wire she felt the man was being sexist rather than rude. "I do feel this question stemmed from the misalignment in his mind between a tiny blonde woman and two laptops," she told the website.
Ms Roberts said she did not feel the question — spoken in the way it was — would have been asked of a man carrying multiple laptops.
"I have gotten pretty good at recognising microaggressions throughout my career, and this was definitely an example of one," she said.
She added women were "tired of things like this happening to them all the time". "When women talk about microaggressions, we seem petty because one comment like this on its own is not a big deal, it's the constant build up of them overtime," Ms Roberts said.