Tag Archives: women in science

The Linkspam is Coming from Inside the House (27 May 2013)

  • We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle, and Slaves Narrative: “Half the world is full of women, but it’s rare to hear a narrative that doesn’t speak of women as the people who have things done to them instead of the people who do things.”
  • Google+ What’s Hot Serves Based On Gender: “I get that WH algorithms are based on what people click, like, share, comment on, etc. Fine. But I challenge anyone to give me one good reason why there should be such a drastic difference in less than ten seconds by simply changing my gender, other than institutionalized sexism about what girls and guys apparently like.”
  • Mapping the Geology of Skyrim: “What I now aim to do is open this project up a bit to other geologists out there who I know are interested in mapping Skyrim. I would like to call on your expertise to come up with hypotheses about the geological evolution of Skyrim.”
  • The Business Case Against Booth Babes: “But the booth babe approach overlooks the essential connections brands need to make with their customers–for many brands, a group that is mostly and increasingly women–and the subsequent need to develop a culture that includes women as part of the conversation.”
  • Come here and work on hard problems, except the ones on our doorstep: The San Francisco startup scene and wealth disparity.
  • Dear Learn to Code Startup, an open letter from a computer science teacher. “[I]f you really want kids to learn to code [...], then don’t make yet another tool or start yet another class that’s separate from your nearby school.” What follows is some good practical advice on how to help way more children learn to code.
  • No, you’re not entitled to your opinion. “The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned.”
  • Why Do Men Keep Putting Me in the Girlfriend-Zone?: “But then, then comes the fateful moment where you find out that all this time, he’s only seen you as a potential girlfriend.”
  • Meet the Woman Behind Pakistan’s First Hackathon: “Last month,the café hosted Pakistan’s first hackathon, a weekend-long event with nine teams focusing on solutions to civic problems in Pakistan ahead of last Saturday’s national election.”
  • Girl Expelled For Science Experiment Going To Space Camp: Not an entirely happy ending, but certainly a hopeful one.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Test tubes and beakers by zhouxuan12345678

11 reasons we’re still not there yet: Women in science

Erin Hardee works in university STEM outreach and blogs at Let’s Talk About Science, where this was originally posted.

It is not uncommon, when reading articles about the difficulties that women in science face, to come across comments citing that female enrolment in undergraduate and masters programs has skyrocketed in recent years and thus, it is posited, the problem really isn’t a problem any more. While it is true that the number of female students in tertiary institutions has grown faster than men that is only one part of the picture and certainly not an indicator that equality has been attained.

Below I will highlight all the ways in which women in science are not yet equal to men in science and link to appropriate studies and articles for proof.

1. Women in science only outnumber men in undergraduate and masters degrees enrolments. When you look at number of graduates produced, undergraduate figures are balanced between male and female. When you look beyond that, “men surpass women in virtually all countries at the highest levels of education, accounting for 56% of all PhD graduates and 71% of researchers.” (study above) That means the people actually doing science (that is, research beyond undergraduate/masters level) are still overwhelmingly male.

2. It’s not just academia, either. In commercial work female scientists are woefully underrepresented, with no more than 10% of Science Advisory Boards made up by women (and this figure has dropped as time went on, not risen).

3. It’s projected that there will not be a 50/50 split of female and male scientists in STEM fields within the 21st century, perhaps because (among other reasons):

4. Women receive patents 40% as often as men;

5. And they also receive far less funding when they launch a new business than their male counterparts.

6. In terms of compensation, in the EU female scientists earned on average between 25% and 40% less than male scientists in the public sector

Now, some may argue that the reason for these figures are that female scientists just aren’t doing work that’s as good as male scientists, and rather than engage with that statement as an offensive opinion (which it surely is), I instead offer the following figures:

7. Both male and female scientists were more likely to hire a male candidate for a laboratory manager position over a female candidate. They also offered the male candidate a higher starting salary and were more likely to offer mentoring to a male candidate – despite the fact that the CVs were identical save for the candidate names.

8. Male candidates were also more likely to be rated as having done adequate amounts of teaching, research, and service experience than an identical female candidate.

9. Male authors were rated as producing work with greater scientific quality than female authors, especially when their work was deemed to be ‘male-typed’.

I’m not suggesting that the majority of people involved in those studies (or in STEM fields as a whole) are actively discriminating against women, but it is undeniable that there is an unconscious bias by both men and women against women going into these fields. Although more anecdotal, it’s also worth pointing out:

10. A woman who runs a popular science blog on Facebook who ‘revealed’ her gender was overrun with a deluge of comments ranging from shocked to misogynistic* – when her gender was never the focus of the initial post in the first place.

11. Reporting on female scientists focuses heavily on their families and domestic achievements in a way that male scientists would never be subjected to; while it may be important to highlight the challenges they faced in their time in science, what does it matter that she made a mean beef stroganoff?

Maybe taken individually any one of these statistics or stories might be explainable – a blip in the system or a quirk of circumstance. Taken together, however, they illustrate that things are not equal yet, and we have a long way to go until they are. It will take more than quotas or laws to put things right; men and women alike need to examine their actions and the reasoning behind them and strive to be as unbiased and fair as possible. The resulting equality for women won’t just help them, but everybody involved.

*as any internet-based feminist will tell you, read the comments at your own risk (both on the Facebook post and the Guardian article).

I’ll be post-linkspam in the post-patriarchy (30 April 2013)

  • How One College Is Closing The Computer Science Gender Gap: “There are still relatively few women in tech. Maria Klawe wants to change that. As president of Harvey Mudd College, a science and engineering school in Southern California, she’s had stunning success getting more women involved in computing.”
  • Calling All Hackers: “Hackers treat the paradigm of “some people are in charge and some people aren’t” as social damage, and they invent ways to route around it.”
  • Reviews, Genre, and Gender ? Radish Reviews: In the recent dustup over whether female-authored SF/F books get reviewed, an entire review outlet was left out because its bread and butter is romance-novel reviews, even though its SF/F reviews are not limited to romance.
  • Feminist Hackerspaces as Safer Spaces?: “In the case of feminist hackerspaces, such safer spaces are not only about safer speaking spaces, but also safer making and trying spaces.”
  • Tech companies that only hire men: Quotes from job descriptions that specify gender. Really??
  • For all the women I have loved who were dragged through the mud: “I’ve read a lot of great essays about how fandom is female-majority and creates a female gaze and a safe space for women and etc. But spend five minutes in fandom and you’ll have an unsettling question. Why does a female-majority, feminist culture hate female characters so much?”
  • little girls R better at designing heroes than you: Superheroes based on costumes worn by little girls.
  • Journalists don?t understand Wikipedia sometimes: “Thus, a well-meaning attempt to include women in the main categorization for American novelists (where many of them were never listed in the first place) may result in women writers no longer being easily identifiable to those who might want to find them.”
  • Dropcam’s Beef with Brogramming, Late Nights, and Free Dinners: “[M]any startups in Silicon Valley, especially the ones I was familiar with, would only hire young, male programmers, people who didn’t have families and weren’t going to have kids in the next few years… We do maternity and paternity leave and all of the things that used to be things that only big, mature companies did. That has allowed us to hire from a bigger group of people than we would be able to if we were part of the brogrammer culture.”
  • Women Are Earning Greater Share of STEM Degrees, but Doctorates Remain Gender-Skewed: “Possible explanations include gender bias, the prospect of short-term postdoctoral jobs that complicate child rearing, and a lack of role models.”
  • Bacon is Bad For You: A talk about developer monoculture and how it puts all of us (even the vegans) at risk.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

They Might Be Linkspam (23 April 2013)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

The left hand of linkspam (19 April 2013)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Syntax error: unexpected linkspam (16 April 2013)

  • Science needs more women: “The bottom line is that many excellent female researchers across Australia do not encounter a set of sequential career rungs to be climbed, but rather need to navigate a complex game of snakes-and-ladders.”
  • Signs of Change: “Not everyone is on the same page, and there is still a lot of progress to go on all fronts, particularly with regard to the players themselves who congregate in gaming communities; it’s often these folks who will engage in the most abuse against advocacy for inclusivity, diversity, and equality. For the first time though, I feel that things are actually changing, that minds are being opened, and that the advocacy, the blogging, the speaking out that people have been doing for so many years-that all of this exhausting work is bearing fruit. There is a cultural shift happening in games, and I hope it continues to shift to a better place.”
  • ABA TechShow Has a Diversity Problem: “TechShow is a very good conference, even with all the white guys on stage. It is like a huge workshop, with something for lawyers who are still trying to use Word properly to lawyers trying to figure out how to gain an edge at trial. It would just be a lot better if there were a greater variety of voices on the presentation stages.”
  • Taking out tokenism: Why some people are changing their minds on quotas: “Lindy Stephens was convinced that quota systems were the wrong way to increase the number of women in positions of power. But three years after adopting a system of positive discrimination, the managing director of IT consultancy Thoughtworks Australia has changed her mind.”
  • MAKE | Where Are the Women?: “In our workshop, Hacking the Gender Gap, we present a brief overview of the published research on the gender gap and women’s history in computing. Then we pass out two different colors of large Post-Its and markers. On one color, we ask participants to write a story of a negative experience they’ve had with technology. On the other color, we ask them to write a positive experience… As a group, we read the stories and discuss the themes that emerge, and what could be done to encourage more of the positive experiences and prevent the negative ones.”
  • Girls Who Code: “The first GWC program launched in the summer of 2012 with 22 girls in New York City. Courses covered not only coding but pitching and presentation skills. At the outset, only one participant was considering a major in computer science; by the end, the entire class planned to major or minor in the subject.”
  • What we talk about, when we talk about fake fangirls: “The fake geek girl meme depends on the narrative of invasion. The particular battle at stake is women entering male space, and demanding that it change.”
  • The Last of Us Female Characters: “So here we see a pretty serious effect of how the assumption “women don’t play video games” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we assume that women don’t play, then we’ll never ask them what they think of a game, and it becomes far more likely that we’ll create a game that presents gender in a limited way, from a limited perspective, or even an offensive one. And then women will be less likely to enjoy playing our game, but that’s all right, because we know that women don’t play games anyway.”
  • Feminist Pax Enforcers: “My experience with PAX East enforcers is that they have created a self-perpetuating image: everybody believes that they’re competent and on top of things and so should be treated with respect, which allows them to be maximally friendly, calm, helpful, and communicative to attendees… which allows them to be completely on top of things, which means that everybody believes they are on top of things… and so on. So it does not surprise me one bit that some of them have gotten together, in the wake of a well publicized incident of a disruptive media attendee, to reassure female cosplayers and attendees that they’ve got your back. With a nerdy meme.”
  • Gail Simone Brings First Transgendered Character to DC Comics in Batgirl #19: “I’m sure it’s controversial on some level to some people, but honest to God, I just could not care less about that. If someone gets upset, so be it; there are a thousand other comics out there for those people.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

I prefer the fanon linkspam (12 April 2013)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

The linkspam is in another castle (2 April 2013)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Science Gender Gap Data by Country

There’s a great interactive feature up at the New York Times displaying the science gender gap, as measured by a science exam given to 15-year-olds, and how that varies across several global regions and 60+ developed countries. The US is one of the countries where boys do the best comparatively, but it’s interesting to see the many countries and regions where girls actually come out ahead. And the global average actually sees girls outperforming boys on this specific science test! But aptitude at a young age doesn’t necessarily translate to closing the gender gap at higher career levels if there is a strong cultural prejudice, and of course the country-by-country variation implies that culture is an important component here.

Researchers say these cultural forces are strong in the United States, Britain and Canada but far less pervasive in Russia, Asia and the Middle East, which have a much higher proportion of women in science and engineering. In Jordan, for example, girls score more than 8 percent better in science than boys do.

“For girls in some Arab countries, education is the only way to move up the social structure,” Mr. Schleicher said. “It is one way to earn social mobility.”

Group of male-type and female-type body symbols, 8 male, 2 female

Being Visible

Being a member of an under-represented group in a technical field can be very isolating. There is often pressure to be the best possible representative of your group, so that others like you are given a chance down the line. And when networking occurs through channels you aren’t privy to, discussions include background you don’t share, and other people’s best-intentioned advice assumes you are just like them, it can get very lonely very quickly.

But there’s a weird corollary to this, which is once a workplace, department, or project realizes it doesn’t have as many women/minorities/outsiders as it perhaps ought to, there is often a push to make the under-represented groups more visible. This might be for recruitment purposes, when a workplace reasons that maybe if they show that there are women already present, they will be able to attract more. Or, to create more inclusive management practices, maybe if an executive committee makes decisions for a department, its racial makeup should reflect that of the department. And the intention—to give the under-represented group more sway or more face time—is laudable; while it’s not the only needed step, it can help significantly. However, if most group members are white and male, these efforts mean that women and minorities may be tapped disproportionately to do outreach and governance work.

On the one hand, this can be great if outreach and governance are things you, the individual group member, are interested in doing. There certainly is a kind of soft power there, to shape your project environment, or to affect the sort of people attracted to it. But often, those tasks aren’t directly rewarded as much as the same time spent doing the actual project work would be. This means that the people asked to do more of what is effectively volunteer work are at a disadvantage for actual job advancement. Even if you want one woman on every governance committee, asking the same one or two women to shoulder that burden when it outstrips the burdens of their male colleagues is unfair. In fact, it’s especially unfair considering that women are already pressured to set fewer boundaries on their time and be more available to volunteer work for free than men are.

What’s more, there is a peculiar disparity in being the only minority in the room for most meetings, while being almost omnipresent in publicity videos and images. If the makeup of an organization is 90% white men, but they tune their outreach to imply otherwise, what does that say? Is it likely to help draw under-represented groups into technical fields, even though it does nothing to address the pipeline or the experiences of those who are already there? Is it misleading, since it doesn’t represent the actual state of the organization or the environment that new recruits enter into? Or is it an acceptable deception to tweak the numbers so that people realize that white men are not the only scientists, programmers, or engineers out there?

It’s good when an organization is aware of representation issues and cares enough to make efforts to address them. However, these efforts sometimes cause issues for the individual members of under-represented groups, by placing extra demands on their time and by asking them to be more visible than everyone else. And not everyone wants to be visible in the first place! But for those who do, the key is to give the time you have to spare while guarding the rest. And if you know of other women or minorities who may be willing to contribute to outreach or governance, you can see if they’ll help split the load. It can be isolating in technical fields when you are thrust into the spotlight, but you aren’t necessarily alone.