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December 31, 2009

Wishes for the new year

A friend's 10 year old recently announced his three wishes for the new year:

World peace
A whole bunch of money
To be able to burp on demand.

Works for me.

May all your new year wishes come true

December 26, 2009

A plug

FairerScience friend Peggy Layne has not just one, but two new books out--Women in Engineering: Professional Life and Women in Engineering Pioneers and Trailblazers.

Women in Engineering: Pioneers and Trailblazers introduces the visionary women who opened the door for today’s female engineers. Pioneers such as Emily Roebling, Kate Gleason, Edith Clarke, and Katherine Stinson come to life in this anthology of essays, articles, lectures, and reports. In this book, the significant contributions women have made to engineering, in areas as diverse as construction management, environmental protection, and industrial efficiency, are finally placed in their proper historical context.
Women in Engineering: Professional Life illuminates the professional lives of today’s women engineers through articles, lectures, reports, and essays dating back to the 1920s. The selections in this groundbreaking anthology examine the current state of employment opportunities for women, the gender gap, and opportunities for career advancement for women in engineering.

Peggy's been working these for quite a while and I'm delighted that they are out and that I'm going to get to read them. Yea Peggy!

December 23, 2009

Why don't more women go into STEM?: Toys R Us 2009 edition

Oh Toys R Us, say it isn't so. Tell me that when I click on your gift guide, that the first question you ask me is NOT if I am buying for a girl or a boy; not today, not in 2009.

Kate Harding described why we should care if toys are gendered in her recent Salon article:

I'm not saying, of course, that gendered toys by themselves will automatically turn kids into gender-policing adults, or that every kid should only play with wooden blocks and chemistry sets, or that pink toys should be outlawed; I was a dress-wearing, unicorn-loving girly-girl who grew up to be a humorless feminist blogger, and I don't think a Barbie will necessarily make a girl self-loathing and submissive any more than my Easy Bake Oven made me a good cook. (And yes, by the way, I've heard the "boys will make a stick into a gun and girls will make a rock into a baby doll" argument about 5 million times.) Toys are only one element of gender socialization, and there are plenty of more disturbing ones out there. But I am saying that well over 30 years after William had to beg his sexist parents for a doll in "Free to Be... You and Me," it seems like we should have made a little more progress.

It also seems with all the emphasis on women in STEM, we should have made a little more progress there as well. Yet when Lisa Wade at Sociolgoical Images used the Toys R Us guide to find for toys for a 12-14 year old boy interested in "techie" and "building" and for a 12-14 year old girl interested in "techie" and "building" she found that:
for boys there were there were 13 building/engineering games (like Lego and KNEX), 3 Ipod accessories, 4 portable DVD players, 2 MP3 players, and a few other things.
for girls, there seven Ipod accessories, 5 portable DVD players, 4 MP3 players, 3 laptop computers, 3 cameras, and one building/engineering game.

Are you not happy about this? Well the Toys R Us CEO is Gerald Storch and while I can't find a good e-mail, their corporate headquarters is located at:
1 Geoffrey Way
Wayne, NJ 07470.

And hey the post office needs your business.

December 13, 2009

Charlie, the MTA and a Mobius strip

For this month's Scientae, Jokerine over at at Love Letters wants us to post on stories of cheer. I have a story from my friend, Adeline Naiman with a math twist that will make you smile.

Those of you who aren't from New England may not know the song Charlie on the MTA. The chorus is:

Did he ever return, No he never returned And his fate is still unlearn'd He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston He's the man who never returned.

I've sung the song all of my life and once you hear it you'll start singing it too.

Anyway here is what Adeline wrote::

This is for Michael J. Bailey, who wrote the (Dec.1st) obit for Bess Hawes.

The story of Charlie begins a little earlier than your record. In the winter of 1947-48, my new husband and I were living in our first apartment on Garden Street on the back of Beacon Hill. I was an editor at Little, Brown; Mark was a graduate student in physics at Harvard on the G.I. Bill. My boss, Angus Cameron, was the state chairman of the Progressive Party, and I was the publicity director. It would be my first presidential election. I was enthralled with politics but more passionate about science fiction. I particularly relished Mark's explanations of the Mobius strip and the Klein bottle with their continuous surfaces.

One night, we had a bunch of friends over for red wine and music. Among them were a Progressive Party pal, Jackie Steiner and a couple who brought a guitar--Bess and Butch Hawes. I think it was a Wednesday night because I waited impatiently for the monthly Astounding Science Fiction magazine, which appeared on the stands on Wednesday, and I was impressed by a story about a Mobius strip in the new issue.

Mark and I treasured our Library of Congress recordings of American folk songs produced by Bess Hawes' father and brother, John and Alan Lomax, so I was awed by her. I was explaining to these non-scientists about the Mobius strip. and we went on to joke about a subway that had no beginning or end. Collectively we chanted a story, and then Butch picked up his guitar and played some familiar tune that fit the rhythm. We had a great night.

The next time I heard our song, it was blasting from Walter O'Brien's campaign truck on Cambridge Street at the foot of our hill. I think the singer was local poet, John Ciardi. The rest you know.

December 09, 2009

Thank you google boys

I'm sitting here ruminating on a really bad New York Times story and I'm at the airport, online for free. The google boys gave me a present for the holidays-- free airport wireless. I'm very grateful. Thanks google boys.

No thanks to you, New York Times for the article that Gawker describes as a Racially Segregated Gift Guide. Since I only get the Times on Sunday. I went online to check out the article (after all we at FairerScience are researchers).

It's actually a lot worse than I expected. First you will be pleased (or saddened) to know that "people of color" are all the same so gifts with an African American link are interspersed with gifts with Hispanic, Asian and Indian backgrounds (no not that Indian-- apparently there aren't enough Native American gift buyers to get Native American products included.) So if you are a person of any color but white-- hey you are all the same.

Oh wait is that the most offensive thing? Maybe it's the assumption that I as a white person would not want to buy a young relative or friend a book about our president or our newest Supreme Court Justice-- or that I don't care about Contemporary Indian Fashion. Well actually I don't care about that but since I don't care about any contemporary fashion. I'm pretty sure that's not racial.

I guess the thing that bothers me the most is why they didn't just list the gifts and let people check them out-- the authors/designers might make a little more money and we all might learn a little bit more.

BTW New York Times, I'm pretty sure being the old grey lady does not qualify you as a person of color.

PS Thanks to FairerScience friend, Kathryn Campbell-Kibler for the heads up.

December 08, 2009

New Numbers

One of FairerScience's more popular tools is Finding the Numbers. It provides you with easy access to the most recent statistics on gender and science for presentations, papers, proposals and articles. We've just updated the links, so you can access the 2009 NAEP data on math and the 2009 SAT and ACT data.

So go to Finding the Numbers and enjoy all the new data.

December 06, 2009


I can't believe it's been 20 years since a man went into an engineering classroom at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. As Alice from Sciencewomen reminds us

He demanded all 48 men in the class leave the room, lined up all 9 women against a wall, and, shouting "You are all a bunch of [expletive] feminists!", proceeded to shoot them. He went into the hall and shot 18 more people, mostly at random. He finally shot himself. He had killed 14 women all together, and injured 9 more women and 4 men.

The women who died could have been anyone. They could have been your friends, your mothers, your sisters, your lovers, your daughters, your neighbors, your students, your teachers, maybe even you.

They were killed because they were women.

Twenty years ago my then 12 year old daughter wrote the names of those women on a piece of paper, pinned it to her shirt and went to school. I cry every time I think of this and I'm crying now.

The women who died are:

Genevieve Bergeron, 21, was a 2nd year scholarship student in civil engineering.
Helene Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master's degree.
Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.
Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.
Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.
Maud Haviernick, 29, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials, and a graduate in environmental design.
Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a 2nd year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.
Maryse Laganiere, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.
Maryse Leclair, 23, was a 4th year student in engineering materials.
Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a 4th year student in mechanical engineering.
Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.
Michele Richard, 21, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials.
Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

Alice, thank you making sure we always remember not just the women but the date that they were killed and why they were killed-- because they wanted to be engineers..