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April 29, 2007

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Well not really, but sometimes it feels that way. Fifteen years ago, "How Schools Shortchange Girls: The AAUW Report" (HSSG) came out. FairerScience coPI Susan Bailey was the first author and I was a coauthor writing—ok here is a shock--the science and math sections.

We got a tremendous amount of press, we were loved and hated, feted and attacked. And in many ways the attention continues—trying googling on "How Schools Shortchange Girls" and see what you get.

As part of FairerScience we were interesting in learning more about was behind the great and sustained attention HSSG received and if there were lessons we could learn from it. We asked FairerScience friend and incredible person Annalee Newtiz for help and she came up with "Attracting Media; Sustaining Impact."

Take a look at it; I learned a lot from it and you might too.

April 27, 2007

News Media Spreads the Wrong News, Again

It's likely that many of you, our readers, have been concerned, as we here at FairerScience.org have, about the recent news that cell phones may disrupt the navigational capabilities of bees. We love our cell phones and the convenience they provide, but we also love our honey, and, even more than that, we love the ecological function that bees serve. So it was very, very upsetting to hear that cell phones and bees might not coexist peacefully.

But I should know better than to take mass media's reports on a scientific study as the empirical gospel. Because I know that journalists often get it wrong, especially when there's a big flap about a finding. And so, I shouldn't be surprised to read in "Wireless: Case of the disappearing bees creates a buzz about cellphones" that not only was the study too small to be significant, but that it wasn't even studying cell phones. Rather, it was a study of cordless phones' impact on bees.

Mass media attention is a mixed bag for researchers. On the one hand, we find what we're working on to be fascinating, and we want to share what we learn with the world. Especially those of us who are researching similarities and differences relating to gender, and who hope our results will change the way people move through the world and treat each other, we imagine the benefits of being in the spotlight. But we rarely imagine our results through the distorted lens of mass media:

"It's not my fault if people misinterpret our data," said Kimmel. "Ever since The Independent wrote their article, for which they never called or wrote to us, none of us have been able to do any of our work because all our time has been spent in phone calls and e-mails trying to set things straight. This is a horror story for every researcher to have your study reduced to this. Now we are trying to force things back to normal."

This is a great reminder for me to check the actual data before I buy into what a news story reports. And it further reminds me that one of the things we here at FairerScience.org need to be doing is helping people be critical audiences of mass media reporting on science, because if I already know that need exists and I didn't think about it in this case, what about all the folks who don't know in the first place?

April 24, 2007

Equal Pay Day

Today is Equal Pay Day, an anti-holiday that marks how far into 2007 a woman must work to earn as much as a man earned last year. Wait, today is April 24th. Ouch!

The good news is that gender differences in science salaries are smaller than most other fields, but they are still with us. And yes I used Finding the Numbers to find this out.

April 22, 2007

Do It Yourself?

Need to know about gender similarities and differences in science course taking?
Wonder how many women are graduating with engineering degrees these days?
Curious as to whether that pesky gender difference on the SAT: Math is getting better?

Well FairerScience is here to help you. No we aren't going to tell you the answers; we are going to show where you can easily get the answers to these and many other questions about gender and race/ethnicity and the sciences. Did I mention it was easy? Honest.

All you need is web access, which of course you already have because you are reading this, and Finding The Numbers: Sources of Statistics on Gender and Science. This two page guide with live links not only describes the information you can get from different sources, it takes you there. And for those of you who want more than existing tables of information, it gives you two tools (one easy one not; quite so easy) to generate your own.

Data geeks unite and find the numbers.

April 18, 2007

Stereotype bingo!

We're all familiar with business buzzword bingo, right? That's where you go to a meeting and mark off the boxes whenever someone says things like "leveraging advantage" or "synergy".

Well, Andrea Rubenstein has created a "Geek Girl" Stereotype Bingo card for those of us who spend less time in the conference room and more time dealing with people saying ridiculous things like this:

Being a programmer requires long hours of hard work, at odd hours of the day and/or night. Women need to be able to be at home to take care of their children when they are sick or come home from school. They need to be able to cook and clean house. Employers need to be able to depend upon Computer specialists to be available when problems arise. The tw [sic] callings are mutually exclusive. Women should be encouraged to major in home economics rather than computer science. (From comments here on this article at the NYT)

Stereotype bingo doesn't come with big bucks or glamorous prizes, but, as Andrea says, you do win "the satisfaction of knowing that you have made fun of yet another stupid article on women geeks."

Hey, it's something, right?

April 16, 2007

Memories, memoirs and stop the killing

Today as I mourn for the students at Virginia Tech I can't help thinking about the young women students at the École Polytechnique de Montréal who were murdered 18 years ago because they were women who were studying to be engineers. The day after those killings, my daughter, who was then in middle school, pinned a handwritten list of the names of those women on her chest and wore it to school. I cry every time I think of this; today I am crying even more. The names of those young women are:
• Geneviève Bergeron
• Hélène Colgan.
• Nathalie Croteau.
• Barbara Daigneault.
• Anne-Marie Edward.
• Maud Haviernick
• Maryse Laganière
• Maryse Leclair
• Anne-Marie Lemay
• Sonia Pelletier
• Michèle Richard
• Annie St-Arneault
• Annie Turcotte
• Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

Great sadness

Our hearts and thoughts are with our friends and indeed everyone at Virginia Tech. There are no words, just incredible sadness.

April 12, 2007

Want a Byline?

Earlier this month while I was at WAM (Women, Action and the Media) I met Kate Daniels the founder and executive editor of The WIP (The Women's International Perspective). Kate came over to meet me because she wanted to know more women scientists and mathematicians (now that is not something that happens to me every day).

Why does she want to meet more of us? Well it isn't just because we are smart, informed and generally fabulous—oh wait that is why she wants to meet us. The WIP, a brand new comprehensive news website, wants to have more science coverage and would love to have more women in the sciences contribute.

They say "We want to hear from writers that can report and share local and world events. We value personal news stories from our writers' daily lives. We seek the global news that can reach far beyond any border."

If this interests you, and it does me; go check out The WIP and start writing. They need:

1. A cover letter that clearly identifies your areas of interest and how you envision contributing to The WIP.
2. A resume or curriculum vitae, including a list of publications. Even if you have not yet been published, we encourage you to submit.
3. Analytic or opinion pieces, 250-1000 words in length that fit into any of our sections. Longer pieces will be considered and if published, may be published as multi-part series.

April 10, 2007

The gender wars are heating up again.

That was the first line of an opinion piece FairerScience co-PI Susan Bailey and I wrote in 1999. Unfortunately it seems as timely today as it was then.

We stated by saying "Too much of the current dialog on the education of girls and boys has the sound of a prizefight. In one corner are those who say that boys, not girls are shortchanged in school. In fact, they say, the attention paid to girls has harmed boys. In the other corner are those who contend that boys are fine and that girls are the ones with the real problems. The bell rings and the two sides come out swinging, each with its own set of statistics to prove not only that their side is the truly shortchanged, but that it is the fault of the "other side.""

Sound familiar?

We pointed out: "We must get past the idea that education is a zero sum game where a step forward for girls is automatically a step backward for boys. Problems remain in our schools but these problems are not limited to "only girls" or "only boys". Teachers know that when something works for girls, it often works for boys as well. For example, providing students with hands on experiments reflecting the ways science relates to daily life has proven helpful in involving girls in science. This approach works for boys, too. Not allowing student "putdowns" makes many girls feel more comfortable in class and boys find they also learn better when they don't have to worry about being teased or insulted."

Sound reasonable?

And we ended by saying "What isn't talked about is our fear that boys who do "girl" things will somehow become "less manly". When caring, nurturing and the expression of feelings are seen as "girls' stuff" and "girls' stuff" is seen as not good for boys, boys are at emotional risk."

Sound right?

I just wish that it sounded out of date.

April 05, 2007

The Ideal Is Male And Under 50: An Update

Late last month Jackie from Element List, let us know about a Discovery Channel job posting looking for a natural innovator with engineering creativity to host an exciting new series. The ideal candidate- why he is male and definitely under 50.

Rosa blogged about this and we also brought it up at WAM: Women, Action and the Media this past weekend. There we met a new FairerScience friend, who prefers to remain anonymous, who took action. Here is what she found out:

"A recent telephone call revealed that the ad was not placed directly by the Discovery Channel. Investigations are underway as to who placed the ad and it will be pulled in its current format. Sources also expressed some horror at being informed of the wording of the job posting, and added that they would love to find a female engineer. I don't know if they will run a replacement ad on Craigs List, so I would encourage anyone interested to apply now through the current posting and again if or when the new ad appears."

So it turns out women are invited to apply. Hopefully next time they'll put our name on the invitation.

April 03, 2007

Post April Fools Post

Ok I am a little late but if you get a chance go over to the Third Scientae Carnival.

LabCat did a great job pulling together a really interesting set of blogs and posts, especially the voices of younger women in the sciences. Ah so many good blogs and so little time.

Did I mention it is Third Scientae Carnival? So go check it out.

April 02, 2007


I can't really say we just got back from WAM: Women, Action and the Media, because it was a local conference, at least for me and Pat, but we did have a good time at our session, "Why Don't They Hear What I Say?", which is based on our document of the same name.

Kathryn led our session and was unsurprisingly great and we had some very interesting discussions both during and after our session. WAM is not a science-focused conference -- far from it, in fact -- but there were plenty of activists and media types there who were interested to hear from more quantitative types such as ourselves.

We also had an informal session talking about our idea of a media action board. Stay tuned for more details and news on that in the next couple of weeks!