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July 31, 2010

I am so off topic

Alyssa over at Apple Pie and the Universe (Is that one of the best names ever?) is hosting this month's Scientiae. While I think her idea for the theme "looking back on the past year and reflect - or to look forward to the goals for the next year" is great, it just doesn't work for me right now. That is probably because I'm grumpy (What Pat grumpy- you say-- how could that happen? Oh hush, everyone knows I get grumpy a lot- don't push it).

So why am I grumpy? Well this post from the July Advocacy and Public Policy Newsletter from AWIS might explain some my grumpiness:

The University of Texas welcomed Arthur Day as the new appointed professor, Vice Chair of education in neurosurgery, and Program Director of the medical school's residency program, despite having three gender discrimination lawsuits filed against him in recent years. In sworn affidavits during one of the lawsuits, female hospital employees said that Day often called the women he worked with "girls," would sometimes display an 8-inch phallic statue on his desk, and downloaded sexually explicit images onto a nurse's personal digital assistant. He is quoted in the testimony as saying to a colleague during surgery: "You are just a girl, are you sure you can do that?" This suit resulted in a $1.6 million award to the plaintiff, when the jury found him /responsible for > creating a discriminatory and hostile work environment. As a result of this verdict, he resigned his job as chief of > neurosurgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
As AWIS explains:
Unfortunately, this discriminatory baggage did not seem to hinder his ability to find work in a supervisory position in Houston. In this economy, when employment is highly coveted, it seems that outright sexism is less of a concern than an impressive CV. What an outrage!

So I thought (ok perhaps hoped is a better term), this must be an aberration-- so I sent it off to a couple of FairerScience friends. Their responses:

The old boys club exists and is perpetuated, I have seen it time and time again when I worked in INSERT UNIVERSITY NAME HERE. Often, these remarks and the climate it created were made by a doc in a position of authority that enabled him to demean female residents and/or undergraduates and they did not feel they could retaliate in anyway. One of the worst offenders was promoted to Dept Head of Surgery, of course.
The INSERT OTHER UNIVERSITY NAME HERE was going to hire a dean who had several sex and racial discrimination lawsuits pending and it was a group of women in positions of authority who did the due diligence and got him dropped from consideration as the new dean. It took a huge effort and many meetings to get this accomplished. Am I surprised at the Texas situation. No.
Unfortunately, my experiences here suggest that this could be a larger cultural problem within the field that is accepted, and apparently rewarded as we see with this example. They are a very powerful network that holds on to the old guard that allows the"boys will be boys" attitude. There are major issues at our own institution that no one seems willing to address.

So I guess the UT choice wasn't so much of an aberration after all; sigh.

July 14, 2010

My first movie premiere

It was last month and I swore I was going to post about it (indeed I thought I had; which gives you a clue as to just how much I need a vacation or even a nap) but.... Anyway the premiere was for a documentary, Marion Stoddart: The Work of 1000. The documentary, well let me just quote them:

Chronicling an important episode in U.S. environmental history, this inspirational story examines the human side of acclaimed environmental pioneer Marion Stoddart.

Marion Stoddart proved that with vision and commitment, an "ordinary" person can accomplish extraordinary things. This film will reveal the secrets of her success and her methods for inspiring change.

It's an excellent documentary and I'm not just saying that because I got to help advise on it. Neither am I saying that because Tom and I got to dress up and go to the premiere and and then dance our butts off at the really fun after party. The documentary is well done and the story reminds us that one person can be a catalyst for change and that we can right environmental wrongs.

Marion's story is also the story of the Nashua River. When we first canoed on the Nashua River Tom got a staff infection after getting splashed by river water. Now kids swim (safely) in the Rive and that's thanks to Marion, with some help from her friends.

Why am I bringing this up now? Well because the National Education Association is offering teachers grants up to $1000 "to support innovative programs that foster student's excitement in creating a better planet". If you're searching for an idea; consider starting with a viewing of "The Work of 1000."

PS Grant proposals are due July 30 and I'm pretty sure you have to be an NEA member, but of course you can screen it without the grant. Email Documentary Educational Resources at docued@der.org for questions or orders, or call 617.926.0491.

Yes of course that's a plug. This whole post is pretty much a plug; well except for getting to dance our butts off. Hmm wish got to that more often .

July 10, 2010

Update and a message to NSF

Some of you may remember the e-mail I wrote to a colleague in the White House. It was about my concerns about the loss of two National Science Foundation programs:

Tribal Colleges and University Program (TCUP);
Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP).

Well FairerScience friend Lorelle Espinosa has given us an update on what is (and isn't happening) including her concern that:.

NSF—an agency scientific in its orientation—has presented a plan with little to no empirical basis as to why a consolidated program will serve the nation’s underrepresented students in ways better than what is currently in place.

Ah NSF, you've made so many good choices, but killing TCUP and HBCU UP is not one of them. NSF support for minority serving institutions has been an important piece of efforts to broaden STEM participation and it needs to continue. We've made progress but there still is a long way to go.

PS folks, there still is time to let NSF know how you feel. Click here to comment.

July 05, 2010

Didn't we already win this battle?

You know the one about doing research on male samples and generalizing the results to women and men. The older among you may remember that whole bruha about Lawrence Kohlberg's1981 work on stages of moral development which was done, of course, with males and, generalized to all. In the 80s and even the early 90s, addiction studies were big on all male samples as well. And studies of heart disease, well they were so bad that in 1990 NIH established the Office of Research on Women's Health, whose mission was to set an agenda for research on women's health and to ensure that women and members of minority groups would be included in clinical research funded by the NIH.

And it worked. Well at least I thought it worked until I read an article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. Turns out that, at least when it comes to research on exercise, I was wrong.

Yup much of the research that has been done, is based on male samples and applied to women as well as men. And wait, yup, lots of times the results don't transfer. Go figure.

Anyway here's a radical idea-- study women and men and look at similarities and differences. An until that happens, quoting article author Gretchen Reynolds:

female athletes should view with skepticism the results from exercise studies that use only male subjects.

And so should everyone else!

July 03, 2010

Happy Fourth of July

FairerScience friend Kate Tilton wrote this and sent it off to me and other friends and family today. It moved me so much, I asked for her permission to post it. Thanks Kate and may you all have a happy, reflective fourth.

Like most of you, I've recently received many "patriotic" email messages, urging me to pass along my allegiance to the flag, my desire for God to bless America; even my body, dressed in red, white or blue, lined up in a field somewhere, becoming an huge human flag. Possibly the most laughable was the diatribe which informed me that there is more than one verse of the National Anthem, and it proves that we are a Christian country. Huh???... I've known that verse for 50 years. It proves nothing but that F.S. Keyes needed to write another verse to a really bad song!

Okay... if that 's your thing, then fine. I do not believe that God blesses America. I tolerate that song only because it's Irving Berlin. I have not pledged Allegiance for... perhaps 20 years?. I'm a patriotic American citizen. I love my country. I wish my country well. I do not need someone else's words to prove that. I will not put on my red shirt and go out and stand in a field somewhere, hoping that a camera from overhead is recording this living flag moment.

I will celebrate Independence Day quietly. I will most certainly help my husband hang our flag. I will probably wear some form of red, white and blue. We will probably grill our dinner, before watching fireworks. I will try not to gag when the music which accompanies those fireworks goes into "Proud to be an Amurrican".

I will, and I hope all thinking Americans will... give some thought to the real intentions of our founding fathers. Most of them were Christian, at least having been baptised such. Most did not often attend church. Most gave lip service to their faith, but did not particularly adhere to it. The Adams' were probably the most devout, and Abigail more than John, I think. Franklin... not devout at all. Washington... lip service. Jefferson... no more devout than Franklin... if UU had existed, he would have been SO There!

We are so NOT a Christian country. We are a melting pot, many faiths, many colors, many beliefs. God... or Allah, or Yahweh... or... whomever... does not bless us, as a country. If we are devout, we may hope to be blessed by our deity. If we are not devout, we should stop asking someone else's God to bless our country. I am always appalled at so many of the emails which I receive.. from friends who never cross a church door step... and who are horrified that "in God we trust" might be taken off our coins.

Let's all grow up. It's our country... it's our job to make it work. God is not going to do it for us. Only our own hard work and attention to our political situation will help us now.

Thank you, Sons of Liberty. Thank you, all of you who suffered in the snow at Valley Forge. Thank you, all you who fell at Gettysburg. Thank you, you who were gassed in France, you who sank with the Arizona, you who planted the flag on Iwo JIma. Thank you Women's libbers... and those who were there at Stonewall... and of course, thank you Dr. King.

Please, in this Independence Day weekend, let us not ever forget that smugness has no place in our national facade. If those who most invoke the almighty choose that path... let them. God/Allah/Jaweh.. etc. knows better. Humility is our better path. We need help. We need the help of our creator. We need the freedom to plead for that help from which ever creator we worship. If they are not all the same, they will work it out somehow.

July 02, 2010

Language, language, language

I know this is car racing again; but tonight Jennifer Jo Cobb made her NASCAR racing debut but still they started the race with the "Gentlemen start your engines." What they only use "Drivers start your engines" when Danika is there? NASCAR if you are serious about your diversity efforts; you might want to be aware that Danika isn't the only woman in racing. And oh guess what, acknowledging women drivers' exsistence (and that of their sponsors) might even help to make them more competitive.

Oh yes-- that whole acknowledging thing-- makes a difference for women in science too!