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January 30, 2008

Telling the stories of others

The theme for this month's Scientiae Carnival is telling stories. Since I thought up the theme. I figure I had better tell you some stories. But then I had a better idea—I would tell you about a teller of stories about women in science.

That would be Glenn Busby, from Northeast Public Radio, director of HER STORY: Then and Now. HERSTORY includes two of my favorite role models, "the silver screen goddess in the 1940's who designed the technology that operates your cell phone" and "the first computer programmer who was also the daughter of a racy 18th Century English poet."

And of course this is a test. If you don't know who these women are, you've got to go to the website and hear their stories.

If you do know who they are check out the Empress of China who used her scientific abilities to invent silk over 5000 years ago and the Alchemist used chemical engineering to invent a popular household tool still used in today's kitchens or the 22 others.

You can read the stories and even better listen to Kate Mulgrew (yup that would be Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek Voyager™) tell them. The stories are short, (two minutes each) interesting and fun. A point of full disclosure. The stories about past women in science talk a lot more about the women's love lives then do the stories of today's women in science (let me tell you, mathematician/physicist Emile Du Chatelete did get around). While I'm sure today's women in science are having a lot of fun, it's probably better not to put the details online.

If you have any stories you would like to tell and have included in the Scientiae Carnival, please send it, by Feb 1st to me at scientiaecarnival [a] gmail [dot] com.

January 28, 2008

Sex, Math and Scientific Achievement: A Grumpy Review

Two things pushed me to finally write this post. One piece of swag from the bloggers conference was the Scientific American Mind issue that included the article "Sex, Math and Scientific Achievement: Why do men dominate the fields of science, engineering and mathematics?" that I had promised to blog about. And Sciencewoman pointed out that she was waiting for my post So here goes.

I've had a hard time writing this post. Reading "Sex, Math and Scientific Achievement" made me grumpy. At one point I actually did shout-"Why don't they hear what I say?" because the article's underlying assumption was "boy howdy are women and men different." The authors write about differences, not about the relative size of differences, the amount of overlap, or heaven forefend similarities. They write about sex differences rather than gender differences. And as Annalee Newitz reminds us "gender implies a social role, sex implies a biological condition".

The authors pay a lot of attention to the large gender differences in the SAT: Math but don't mention the much smaller differences on the ACT. Nor do they mention that SAT under predicts women''s college grades relative to those of men in all fields except engineering. They do at least mention that the ratio of 12 year old boys to girls scoring at least 700 on SAT: Math has decreased from 13:1 to 3:1 in the past twenty years (guess that math gene is getting weaker).

They quote one 1992 study to "suggest that stereotypes of science as masculine may prejudice educators against girls from the start, but leave out the whole field of stereotype threat.

And maybe I'm being picky but it is seems strange that they write a paragraph about "boys having the upper hand" on visuospatial skills on page 2 but wait until page 3 to tell you about Sheryl Sorby's successful efforts to improve visuospatial skills. And oh yes they don't tell you that she found "even though robust gender differences in 3-D spatial skills exist, training and practice have been shown to effectively reduce or eliminate these differences."

They begin and end with Larry Summers' 2005 remark about innate differences and don't mention his other two reasons ("the high-powered job hypothesis" and "different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search") And weirdly they said he spoke at an economics conference; when he actually spoke at a conference, on women and minorities in the science and engineering workforce held AT an economics center.

I know I haven't started on the "Role of Biology" section but now I'm grumpy and depressed so I'm going to stop.

January 26, 2008

My first webless webcast

Ok I realize this is somewhat a contradiction in terms but it actually worked. I'm working with a group of community based organizations who provide services to returning dropouts (yes these are the folks who get the vast majority of my cookies; Zuska got some of the last batch but that was because she set up our panel for the NC Science Bloggers Conference and because let's just face it; she is soooo cool.)

But I digress. We were confronted with a situation that so needed a webcast-- that is busy people who really don't want to travel to a central site and since we were dealing with data entry, who really needed to be at their sites on their own computers. The bad news was that YDI, the supporting organization, doesn't currently have webcast capacity. So what did we do? We kluged it and it worked. That is we set up a conference call and then in advance sent everyone the powerpoint and the excel sheet that they would need. We were prepared to resend anything folks needed but these folks were so prepared that wasn't necessary (hey these folks work with returning dropouts, they are amazing, poorly paid and wonderful-- not your average crowd). So we did the "webcast" by phone with me saying things like - "ok everyone should have the powerpoint titled "whatever" on screen now" or "now go to the excel file and enter X now and see what happens".

And it worked! Folks understood the data collection system, tested it out while were listening and had lots of comments on how to improve the process. And instead of a kinda expensive webcast, it was all done for the cost of a conference call. Kluges rule!

January 24, 2008

Computational Couture

From the North Carolina Science Bloggers Conference I went home, baked 10 dozen cookies and went to New York City where I’ve been doing site visits at programs for returning dropouts. I'll tell you more about what happened to the cookies later, but did want to give the Boston area folks a heads up about a fashion show.

Yup Pat is posting about a fashion show. Why- well because this doesn't seem to be your average fashion show. First it is at the Boston Museum of Science and second as they say it features "emerging designers from around the globe and functional creations that mesh sophisticated, cutting edge technology, new methods of engineering, and fashion to redefine the notion of 'wearable."

Unfortunately it isn't free, tickets are $15 but the idea of checking out interactive clothing and talking to the designers is pretty cool. I'm going to try to make it. It's January 30, at 8:00 at the Boston Museum of Science.

January 19, 2008

Bloggers are even better in person

I’m at the 2nd Annual NC Science Bloggers Conference and it is true bloggers are even better in person. This is a great conference—blogger, journalists, scientists, pr folks, students etc. with most people fitting into two or more categories. The conference is free, the food and the swag good and the sessions and people so good that in spite of the potential for being snowed in tonight, I’m coming next year. Here are some personal highlights:

I got to meet Sciencewoman and Minnow (who is even more adorable and well behaved than I expected), Karen from Science to Life and Dr. Free Ride as well as getting a chance to catch up with Suzanne from Thus Spake Zuska. Our session went really well with a lot of discussion about issues of gender and science on and off line. While there was not as much discussion about issues of race/ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation and science, unlike most gender and science sessions, there was some, which made me very happy. .

Also making me happy was the level of the discussion. One interesting point raised was by an editor who e-mailed an equal number of women and men to recommend science blogs for an article in a popular science article. The men responded, the women didn’t. When the article was published the editor caught hell for only including sites recommended by men. Understandably he was upset. Equally understandably those who complained were upset, they didn’t know equal numbers of women and men were asked. One suggestion was that in the future the editor should include in the article that “I asked five men and five women and only men responded so that’s what we have.” The “but wait, shouldn’t we look at why the women didn’t respond” argument was raised but we ran out of time.

And that was only one session—will blog on some others soon.

January 18, 2008

An Attempt to get to “The Truth about Boys and Girls”

NBC Nightly News aired a special series this week on The Truth about Boys and Girls which is worth a listen (and perhaps a response or two via one of the many related blogs they have listed). Here’s a quick snapshot of each program’s focus which you can view online. (FYI: One more program will be added to this line-up).

Salary and the sexes – As we all know, the pay gap between men and women continues. This program reports that the gap starts immediately after college gets worse after then.

College applications: Avoiding the gender bias – This program highlighted how to find online information on colleges where girls are admitted at lower rates than boys.

New rules help single-sex schools – This program reviewed the Administration’s latitude for schools to split sexes into different classrooms and how this challenges Title IX issues.

Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget – This program explores the science of gender differences.

Posted by Pat for Donna

January 17, 2008

Off to North Carolina

So remember my telling you about the second annual Science Blogging Conference.on January 19? I'm off to it tomorrow and will let you know how it goes including our session on . "Gender and Race in science: online and offline."

January 14, 2008

Pat's on Public Radio Today

Do you want to hear what I actually sound like? If your public radio station gets The Best of Our Knowledge you can. Host Glenn Busby interviews me today and again next Monday about my and Toni Clewell's book, Good Schools in Poor Neighborhoods. Let me know how I sound.

PS If you don't know if your station carries the Best of Our Knowledge, you can check here

January 13, 2008

Watch Your Language: Part, oh who can count that high?

As you know, we at FairerScience worry a lot about language use. As our handout, Words Matter says: .

The words we use influence our audience's feelings about us and, more importantly, about how relevant our message is to them and their interests. Paying attention to word choice can really pay off! Since there’s no single set of words that will work with all audiences, we need to choose the words we use consciously and carefully.

I'm not so sure that the New York Times, Week in Review editors were doing that today. Under pictures of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Fredrick Douglas they wrote:

"Pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Fredrick Douglas worked together on abolition, but then had a bitter split over who should be the first to vote—women or blacks."

Come on folks you know better than that- it was who should be "first to vote- white women or black men."

In the subhead the Times does ask who goes first "The black man? The white woman?" But in this case they are writing about individuals; not about groups. In the article itself they go on to speak about "the broad ideals that blacks and women have typically shared."

Twenty-five years ago Gloria Hull, Pat Bell Scott and Barbara Smith published a book titled All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men: But Some of Us Are Brave. Guess things haven't changed that much.

January 11, 2008

Webcast Recap

As Pat mentioned yesterday, we had our inaugural webcast on Wednesday and it went very well. It was an interesting experience because the participants weren’t actually talking on the phone line with us – they “talked” to us by typing into a chat box. As you can imagine, it’s a challenge to present on something without any feedback – how do I know if they laughed at my incredibly funny comments or liked the cat photo I included? The organizers at the National Girls Collaborative Project were great to work with and the technology was pretty cool. There was definitely enthusiasm for the world of science blogging – you are all doing important work! I’m looking forward to expanding the presentation into a tool for FairerScience. As Pat said, we’d love to have any suggestions from you.

We did get some great questions from participants, including one that I wanted to throw out to our readers. One of the suggestions we made was to encourage girls to “Science Up” any existing online presence they had, including their Facebook page. I wasn’t very familiar with Facebook so I started playing around the site yesterday. I was sucked in pretty quickly and reconnected with a good high school friend who is now living in China and wound up selling some of my jewelry (the opportunity to play Tetris wasn’t too bad either). I was curious if any of you have used Facebook, especially related to women in science.

Here’s the link to the slides again and we promise to post to the audio as soon as it’s up (as long as you promise to laugh at the right spots).

Time to play Tetris on Facebook get some more work done!

January 10, 2008

Catch Up

This has definitely been one of those "the faster I run the behinder I get" weeks and it's only Thursday. So this is just going to be a quick note and a promise to do better. Yesterday's webcast on "Why Don't They Hear What I Say? went really well especially Jenn's section on Using Blogs To Encourage Girls Toward Science Careers. She will be blogging more about that tomorrow but if you can't wait you can download the powerpoints here. When they put up the audio we will let you know.

In the meantime there was enough excitement about using women in science blogs with middle and high school girls that FairerScience has started working on a "tool" to help people working with kids in science use blogs and even set up their own. Any and all ideas of what to include welcome.

January 06, 2008

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

"Please consider the environment before printing this email."

This statement was at the bottom of an e-mail I just received from a colleague I respect greatly (and respect even more now). Starting now I'm adding it to the bottom of my e-mails and I hope that you will too.

It's almost Wednesday

Jenn and I are getting excited about doing our webcast "Why Don't They Hear What I Say?" on Wednesday at 2 (east coast time). We will be talking with folks about why we aren’t being heard and what we can do to help people separate myth from reality about women in science. One of the ways we will be talking about is using women in science blogs.

Along with giving folks a resource sheet with examples of women and science blogs, we are planning to highlight
Rants of a Feminist Engineer
On Being a Scientist and a Woman
Cocktail Party Physics
Antarctic Journal

and of course
Scientiae Carnival.

Ah we wish we could highlight more folks, but at least there will be the resource list.

So if you have a free hour at 2 on Wednesday come join us (You can register here).

If you can't make it, they are going to archive the webcast and we will post the link when it is up. We will also be putting a piece on how programs for middle and high school girls can use women and science blogs to excite and encourage girls up FairerScience. If you would like to be included please let me know.

January 03, 2008

It's a party over at Jokerine's

January's Scientiae Carnival is up over at Jokerine's and it's a party. Go on over. I'm sure you will enjoy the company.