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October 29, 2010


I'm probably going to post this daily. If you have early voting VOTE NOW! If you aren't going to be around on the 2nd, get your absentee ballot NOW and VOTE! If you want a Christmas present from me VOTE! Am I being clear VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

The unexpectedly positive consequences of confronting sexism

Is that not one of the better, and happier, titles for a research study? And it's for real. The study (sorry it's behind a paywall) by Robin Mallett and Dana Wagner of Loyola University Chicago found that:

“Confrontation reduces the future occurrence of biased behavior. If [a man who is challenged after expressing a sexist statement] is motivated to be liked by the confronter, or wishes to present a non-prejudiced image, then he will likely compensate in response to confrontation and change his future behavior.”

It gets better. The men who were confronted about their behavior described a more cordial relationship with their partner than did the men who weren't confronted and “confrontation and mutual liking were both positively associated with sexist language detection.”

The catches-- well first these were college students-- it's not real clear how older men might respond to being confronted about using sexist language (but I have some hypotheses) and second the confrontation was about language not behaviors. But catches aside, as one who has been known to confront people, this study does make me happy.

BTW if you want to read more about it for free, you can here.

October 22, 2010

It's science, it's engineering, it's a festival

Yes it's the first ever US Science and Engineering Festival and it's on now. If' you're in the DC area head on down. It's free, it's fun and it's on the National Mall between 1st and 7th Streets; Freedom Plaza, Pennsylvania Ave. NW between 12th and 14th Streets; Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Mellon Auditorium, National Museum of Natural History.

I was going to say, sadly I won't be there-- but it's not sadly I'm in New Orleans speaking with the AAMC GREAT group (and they are great!) about faculty diversity and oh yes listening to the Uptown Jazz Orchestra and Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown.

October 11, 2010

It gets better; pass it on; maybe you can save a life

Dan Savage has decided that we all have to come together to help save the lives of kids who are trashed, bullied, harassed- often to death-- because of who they are. He's doing that by asking folks to upload videos to YouTube telling gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered middle and high school kids that "it gets better". It gets better as in, please don't kill yourself, it does get better. How sad I am that we need to do this, but how much I appreciate that Dan and Terry are doing this. These are our children; they are dying and we can help save their lives. Telling them about "it gets better is so not the only thing we need to do but it is a start.

My goal-- no more kids kill themselves because they are bullied and no one is helping. It may be an unrealistic goal but these are our children, they are dying and we can do something to stop that and we must!

October 09, 2010

Lies, damned lies and statistics

Hey what can I say, I've always been a fan of Mark Twain although hmmm maybe it actually was Disraeli who first said it (never mind ignore me, I'm getting way too pedantic).

Now the reason I'm bringing this up (yes there actually is a reason) is because of an essay FairerScience friend Cathy Kessel recently posted. Cathy wrote about "Bad Statistics About Women in Science" and oh boy (or girl) does she have the data.

Cathy breaks the bad statistics into 5 areas:
• The Solitary Statistic
• The Fabricated Statistic
• The Garbled Statistics
• Avoiding Bad Statistics
• How Many Women in Science?—Perhaps More Than You Think.

You really have to read the whole thing, but I've got to tell you about the one that makes me the most nuts: "The Solitary Statistic." What is that you ask? Well it's the ratio that won't die, the flawed figure that contributed to the myth of male math gene and almost 30 years later continues to haunt us. Ok I hear you saying, “I get it, you’re upset, just tell the story.” Here it is.

For many years 7th and 8th graders who their teachers think are academically talented are invited to take the SAT. Work in the early 80’s found for every 13 middle school boys from this population who scored 700 or higher on the SAT: Math, only 1 girl did. That’s like an OHG statistic which continues to be cited EVEN THOUGH the current ratio is about 3:1. And oh yes, that myth of the male math gene, has also stuck around bolstered by the continued to be quoted 13:1 ratio of many years ago. Gee you don’t think any of this might be intentional do you?

So let me add a family story. Years ago under this program, daughter Kathryn was invited to take the SAT in middle school. She decided to do it whereupon I learned that parents had to pay for the privilege (there were scholarships but her school had never heard of them). Then several weeks BEFORE Kathryn took the SAT, she received a mailing explaining that girls didn’t score as well as boys on the math section (yup nothing like setting the girls up). You know some days I’m surprised that that early ratio wasn’t even higher.

BTW this did lead to Kathryn’s first publication: Campbell, Patricia B., Tom R. Kibler, and Kathryn B. Campbell Kibler. "Taking the SAT at 12." College Prep. Number 7, February, 1991. pp 8-10. Sorry I can' find it on line. If you want a copy, let me know.

October 01, 2010

You get paid to go to grad school!

So guess who has been spending most of her time traveling around to a variety of colleges and universities interviewing juniors in STEM about their graduate school and career plans. Yes that would be me and yes, that is the reason you haven't heard much from me recently. I'm having a wonderful, although exhausting, time interviewing these students. They're amazing and I'm learning a ton!

One thing that I've learned is you mothers and fathers out there-whether you know it or not-- you're having a big impact on your kids and at least for this subgroup of kids, that impact is really positive. And you middle and high school science and math teachers who work so hard to get kids engaged in he sciences-- it's working! The things these kids say about you-- that's right you--are so moving. I hope they tell them to your face someday. And oh yes those of you who don't engage the students you're teaching-- I've heard about you as well and well, it's not pretty.

Some things I've been learning are quite upsetting. One of those is that there are a number of STEM undergrads who would like to go to graduate school but say they can't afford it. That's right! THERE ARE NUMBERS OF BRIGHT STEM UNDERGRADS WHO DON'T KNOW THAT YOU DON'T PAY TO GO TO GRAD SCHOOL IN THE SCIENCES, YOU GET PAID.

FairerScience readers we need to change this. If you work in a college or university- tell undegrads this important truth, ask your colleagues to to tell their students, put a sign on your door, heck put signs up everywhere. If you're a parent- tell your kids, tell your kid's friends, tell their parents. Hmmm maybe I should get some bumper stickers made.

An oh yes if they want to know/do more. Send them off to GrantsNet . It's free and full of useful information about grad school funding (and oh yes sources of undergrad research experiences).