Tag Archives: women in science

Rocky Horror Linkspam Show (6 November, 2012)

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 used to be an adventurer like you until I took a linkspam to the knee (23 October, 2012)

  • Engendering Change | Atomic MPC: “Katie Williams looks at how gamers and game developers are tackling sexism, and how some of us are just making things worse…”
  • Meaningful Adventure | Share Your Story: A game design project that “seeks to raise awareness of the positive and negative treatment women face in the gaming community by building a digital game. We are seeking help from both men and women to get a better grasp on what real women experience while playing games.” Looking for you to share your stories. “Within one or two weeks, the anonymized, edited collection will be posted on the project website at meaningfuladventure.wordpress.com.”
  • ‘As a woman’: Misconceptions in the diversity discussion | Gamasutra: “Our panel’s now available to view for all those who have a GDC Vault pass — and meanwhile, I’ve aimed to crystallize and illuminate some common misconceptions about diversity issues in games that we joked about.”
  • A Factory for Scientific Heroines at the Royal Society of London | Huffington Post: The doyenne of British psychology, Professor Uta Frith DBE, has written an article for the Huffington Post calling for more recognition of female scientists. She says that one way to do this is through creating and editing Wikipedia entries about inspiring female scientists past and present, and the Royal Society (of which Frith is a Fellow) has begun an edit-athon to do just that. One example of a glaring omission on Wikipedia at present, mentioned by Frith, is the lack of an entry for cognitive neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire of UCL, despite how hugely influential her work has been. Frith also has a related article in the Daily Telegraph, Shining a light on our science heroines.
  • Gender and Swag | MISinformation: “Each year when the Grace Hopper Conference happens, there is the inevitable discussion about the swag (the freebies in registration packets) given out. I have to confess that the first year I heard that companies gave out nail polish and “girlie” things, I was totally offended, but that was before I attended Grace Hopper. After attending, my whole attitude changed. Engaging in this year’s debate made me stop and think a bit more about the phenomenon.”
  • The point of calling out bad behavior. | Adventures in Ethics and Science: “And, I’ll level with you: while, in an ideal world, one would want the perpetrator of sexist behavior to Learn and Grow and Repent and make Sincere Apologies, I don’t especially care if someone is still sexist in his heart as long as his behavior changes. It’s the interactions with other people that make the climate that other people have to deal with. Once that part is fixed, we can talk strategy for saving souls.”
  • Two GF related projects with Kickstarters:
    • Articulate: “Articulate aims to raise the profile of women speakers in the technology and the creative industries by offering public speaking training, developing partnerships with event programmers, and giving better access to talented female speakers.” (Kickstarter coming later in October)
    • Mothership HackerMoms | Projects. Friends. Inspiration. With Childcare.: “We are a new kind of playground and workspace for creative mothers. Fun to us is not mani-pedis at the mall, but making, breaking, learning and hacking our bright ideas. These creations are our children, too, and deserve a chance at life. Our mission is to give mothers the time and space to explore DIY craft and design, hacker/maker culture, entrepreneurship, and all manner of creative expression – with childcare.”
  • Two GF related Tumblrs:
    • Academic Men Explain Things to Me | Tumblr: “Are you a female academic, researcher, or graduate student? Has a man tried to explain your field or topic to you, on the assumption that he must inevitably know more about it than you do? Share your experiences as a mansplainee here.”
    • Gender and Science: Gender and Science Tumblr: photos of and quotes from female scientists.

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.

Ada Lovelace portrait in woodcut style

Wednesday Geek Woman: cross-post your Ada Lovelace Day 2012 post

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

This is a submissions thread for Wednesday Geek Woman series of profiles. This time you have two submission options:

  1. submit your Ada Lovelace Day profile for cross-posting
  2. submit in comments here as usual

Option 1a: submit your Ada Lovelace Day profile for cross-posting.

To do this, simply leave the URL of your ALD post in comments. In addition, you can optionally include:

  1. optionally, a one sentence biography about yourself, with any links you want.
  2. optionally, a note that you are willing to release your profile under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Notes:

  • the profile must be written by you
  • the profile will still be checked against our standard criteria before posting (see below)

Option 1b: submit your Ada Lovelace Day profile for a round-up

This mostly applies to anyone who wrote about a woman we’ve already featured. We won’t cross-post your posts, but we’d love to stick them in a roundup.

Option 2: submit in comments here.

Note: this option is not limited to profiles of women in STEM.

Submit your profile of a geek woman in (hidden) comments here and selected ones will be posted (perhaps lightly edited). Here’s what to include:

  1. Optional: a quick one sentence bio paragraph about yourself, with any links you want. For example: Mary is a humble geek blogger and you can find her at <a href=”http://geekfeminism.org/”>geekfeminism.org</a&gt;Notes:
    • if this bio line is missing, you will be assumed to want to be anonymous. This applies even if you put a name and URL in the comment field.
    • don’t feel pressured into revealing things about yourself you don’t want to. A pseudonymous, mysterious, vague or simple bio is fine.
  2. Compulsory: two or more parapraphs describing your geek woman, ideally including why you admire her in particular.
  3. Optional: links to her biography, her Wikipedia page, and so on.
  4. Optional: agreement that your post can be used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (posts that have this can be used in the Geek Feminism wiki).

See previous posts for examples.

Here’s a form you could copy and paste into comments:

My bio (one sentence only, optional):

Name or pseudonym of the geek woman I am submitting:

A few words summarising the woman’s geek accomplishments (for example “AI researcher” or “discoverer of supernova” or “engine mechanic”):

My post about this woman (two or more paragraphs):

Links to this woman elsewhere (optional):

[Please delete this line if you don't agree!] I agree to licence my post under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Criteria. Continue reading

One week until Ada Lovelace Day!

Ada Lovelace Day is a week from today: Tuesday October 16.

Ada Lovelace Day is a profile-raising day for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Write or record something about a woman in STEM on October 16:

It’s really easy to get involved in Ada Lovelace Day: When 16 October starts in your time zone, just write or record something about a women in science, technology, engineering or maths whose achievements you admire. It can be a blog post, a Facebook update, a podcast, a video – whatever you like.

When it’s published online, visit our Directory, log in, and add your story to our collection.

Yes, it really is that simple! So make a date to join us on 16 October and help raise the profile of women in STEM.

List sources of inspiration here, or previous year’s ALD posts that you’ve really enjoyed. On ALD itself we’ll have a second post to share your favourite links from this year.

Ada Lovelace Day is also raising funds to support ALD 2012 activities, and to investigate founding a charitable organisation to support women in STEM.

NB: for clarity Ada Lovelace Day is independent of, and pre-dates, the Ada Initiative, the non-profit I work for that specifically focuses on women in open technology and culture. We’re both named in honour of Augusta Ada King, the Countess of Lovelace.

I’m Commander Shepard, and this is the best linkspam on the Citadel (2 October, 2012)

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.

Linkspam of Pandaria (25 September, 2012)

  • AT&T Archives: First There Was Sarah: Recruiting video for women at AT&T in 1969, and an interesting history of women working at AT&T from the 19th century on.
  • Swing And A Miss: “While many know about the [All-American Girls Professional Baseball League] due to the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, few realize that women played professional, minor league baseball until 1931. That year, a young woman named Jackie Mitchell ended women’s hopes of breaking into the big leagues. How? By striking out Babe Ruth. And, for good measure, she struck out Lou Gehrig too.”
  • When sex and porn are on-topic at conferences: Keeping it women-friendly: “We’d like to start a discussion: How can the Ada Initiative extend the example anti-harassment conference policy to explicitly allow respectful, woman-positive discussion of topics like sex and pornography when it is on-topic, without creating loopholes for sexist and exclusionary behavior to creep back in?”
  • Recently divorced woman sends her wedding ring into space on a homemade rocket: “Talk about catharsis: Looking to find a unique way to symbolically end her marriage, Rebecca Gibbs from Christchurch, New Zealand, has sent her wedding ring into space by using a homemade rocket that she built with her brother. After watching the rocket’s second propulsion phase kick in, Gibbs described the experience as ‘uplifting.’”
  • Women Speak Less When They’re Outnumbered: “There is an exception to this rule of gender participation, however. The time inequality disappeared when researchers instructed participants to decide by a unanimous vote instead of majority rule. Results showed that the consensus-building approach was particularly empowering for women who were outnumbered by men in their group.”
  • More responses to the study on gender bias in science that we linked last week:
    • Bias Persists Against Women of Science, a Study Says – NYTimes.com: “As a result, the report found, the professors were less likely to offer the women mentoring or a job. And even if they were willing to offer a job, the salary was lower. The bias was pervasive, the scientists said, and probably reflected subconscious cultural influences rather than overt or deliberate discrimination.”
    • Study shows gender bias in science is real. Here’s why it matters. Whenever the subject of women in science comes up, there are people fiercely committed to the idea that sexism does not exist. They will point to everything and anything else to explain differences while becoming angry and condescending if you even suggest that discrimination could be a factor. But these people are wrong. This data shows they are wrong. And if you encounter them, you can now use this study to inform them they’re wrong.

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.

Open pipes gushing water

Pipeline Guilt

One of the most common metaphors for discussing retention problems for women in science is the leaky pipeline, which paints a picture of women slipping out of the track to the upper echelons of scientific research. The idea is that for, say, the track to being a professor in the sciences, even if you start with a large proportion of undergraduate women studying some field, if some leave before graduate school, before doing postdoctoral research, before landing tenure-track jobs, before landing tenure, or really at any point before becoming department chair and Nobel laureate, that is A Problem. The pipeline that was supposed to shuttle women to the top is leaking. And you can see how the same idea could apply to women reaching any position of power that involves many steps to get to: if you lose women at each step in larger numbers than you lose men, those at the top will be mostly men.

The pipeline metaphor is a useful one for encouraging people to think about the many career stages and how women’s choices are constrained differently at each one. For example, the fact that women are assumed to shoulder more of the burden of child-rearing, as well as the physical tasks of pregnancy and childbirth, affects the work situations of women of parenting age far more than men. And as women get older, they are less likely to receive cultural support for their voices as voices of authority, whereas for men the opposite is true. It’s important for these issues to be discussed among policy makers and hiring officers if women’s experience in the workplace is to be normalized, in order to increase their representation at later career stages, and in this sense the ‘leaky pipeline’ is an apt description of the problem.

But there is another effect of this idea that I’ve observed among women in science that is far less helpful: pipeline guilt.

One of the most natural reactions for women working in a field where women are under-represented, who have heard about the leaky pipeline and want to be an advocate for women in that field, is the desire not to contribute to the leaks. Knowing that women leaving a career progression early precludes women from occupying positions of power at the end of that progression, it can be pretty difficult to change your own path. This is related to the idea of a model minority, and wanting to be the most successful representation of your minority group possible to show that your group can do X, whatever X may be. And even people who embrace alternate models of success for others can have a difficult time accepting those models in their own lives; it is easier to tell someone else that leaving academia to write books is a valid choice than it is to make that choice yourself. It’s a heavy burden to want to be the best example for women in your field, at the expense of your own happiness. And it’s easy to hear about the leaky pipeline and see it as prescriptive, implying that individual women have to choose to stay in the pipeline in order to help solve the problem.

However, I think that there are other ways to look at the prospect of leaving the pipeline. I’ll stick to the sciences as an example, but this analysis can apply to many other fields.

For one, leaving research science and its prestigious end-pipeline positions does not necessarily mean ceasing to be an ambassador for women in science. Science communicators, science writers, science teachers, and science policy makers all serve as faces and voices of science, and having women in these roles does quite a bit of good. People in science outreach and education can also help get young people into science, which adds to the number of women entering the pipeline. People in policy and activism roles can provide support for women still in the pipeline, and work to promote cultural and institutional acceptance of women in science. In fact, it’s really important to show that these support and outreach roles matter, since they are routinely undervalued and dismissed. And even those people who choose careers or life paths completely unrelated to science are still scientifically literate citizens, perhaps raising their children to enjoy science, perhaps raising their voices in support of science during discussions with friends and family, perhaps throwing their vote behind scientifically literate candidates. Most parts of the world have a problem with public understanding of and support for science, but change can start small, on the individual level. And I for one would enjoy having more musicians, novelists, and lawyers who know anything about science, just as I enjoy finding scientists who know the slightest thing about art, business, or history.

Thinking about the leaky pipeline can definitely be helpful in identifying when underrepresented groups leave career paths that seem stacked against them. But when it comes right down to it, ‘the pipeline’ is a very simplistic view of what constitutes achievement in the world. Not only is it important to make decisions that will make you happy, but it’s also important to recognize that there are many ways to advocate for underrepresented groups, and many ways to lead by example. Many of them are outside the pipeline, and it isn’t a betrayal of all the women who couldn’t make it to the top to choose a different path.

Quick hit: “A quantitative analysis of gender bias in quantitative biology meetings”

Plenty of us have scanned down the list of speakers at a conference and wondered why there appeared to be so few women, but when Jonathan Eisen saw the numbers at Q-BIO, he started by taking note: “Q-Bio conference in Hawaii, bring your surfboard & your Y chromosome b/c they don’t take a XX” [1]:

That is a 25:1 ratio. Pathetic. Embarrassing. The sponsors – UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences and BioCircuits Institute, San Diego Center for Systems Biology, the University of Hawaii and the Office of Naval Research – should all be ashamed.

He notes in a previous post that the ratio of men and women in biology is close to 1:1, so a ratio so far off that suggests something could use some work. But for Q-BIO, he’s taken it a step further and submitted a very appropriate abstract.

UPDATE – I have now submitted an abstract to the meeting. The abstract I submitted is available here and posted below

The probability of having one out of twenty six participants at a scientific meeting be female
A quantitative analysis of gender bias in quantitative biology meetings
Jonathan A. Eisen
University of California, Davis

(Note – new title suggested by John Hogenesch)

The title alone made me laugh. You can read the full abstract at his blog, including equations and graphs!

[1] See Tim’s comment below

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

How To Exclude Women Without Really Trying

An earlier version of this post appears on Tim’s blog.

Excluding by inclusion

This year’s “Future of Haskell” discussion, which traditionally ends the annual Haskell Symposium, stumbled into the question of gender equity, via the perennial question of how to increase the number of Haskell programmers. Many programmers (of all genders) find math intimidating and think that the Haskell programming language requires more mathematical skill than other popular languages. In the discussion, Doaitse Swierstra, a professor of computer science at the University of Utrecht, suggested that a good way to increase the number of Haskell programmers would be to recruit one woman for every man in the room. So far, so good: in fact, Prof. Swierstra showed creativity by introducing the problem of gender inequity at this point in the discussion. But then he went on to say that if this goal were achieved, it would make the meetings more “attractive”.

Speaking as someone who attended functional programming conferences for ten years, the field of programming language (PL) research in general is particularly male-dominated even by computer science standards. Also anecdotally, functional programming is an even more male-dominated sub-field within PL research. I would sometimes play a game during conference talks where I would count the number of men with long hair, and the number of women, in the room. There were always more long-haired men than women. I can’t know what someone’s gender is by looking at them (as I well know, since before 2007 most people who looked at me would have thought I counted as one of those women). Still, even with a very generous estimate as to how many people who appeared to be men may actually have been trans women or genderqueer people, the conferences would still have had a gender balance that doesn’t reflect the underlying population, or even the gender balance in computer science or software as a whole. Even the field of mathematics is less male-dominated than functional programming research, so the excuse that PL people are blameless and the numbers result from discouragement of girls learning math at the primary and secondary educational levels does not explain the imbalance.

Prof. Swierstra does get credit for recognizing that there is a problem. And I don’t doubt that by making the comments he made, he intended to encourage the inclusion of women, not exclusion. (You can listen to the relevant part of the discussion yourself—the link goes directly to 32:00 in the video. Apologizes in advance to those who are hard of hearing; I didn’t want to attempt a transcript beyond what I already paraphrased, since I wasn’t totally sure about all of it.)

Even so, Swierstra’s remark provides a great example of how it’s not the intent behind what you say that matters, but rather, the effect that your words have. By following a call for more women in the room with a comment about his opinion of women’s greater attractiveness relative to men, he completely undermined his own attempt to encourage equality, whether or not that was his intent. If you accidentally run a person over with your car, not having intended to hurt them doesn’t make them less dead. And if you make an objectifying comment that tells women their value at an academic conference is as decoration, not having intended to send that message doesn’t make those women feel any more welcome. (While accidental killings are punished less harshly than deliberate ones, the analogy stops holding at that point, since no one wants to punish people for accidentally making sexist comments, only to ask them to reflect and learn so they don’t make such comments in the future.)
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Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

There Is Another Linkspam (4 September 2012)

  • So Long, Barbie Dreamhouse: Roominate Gets Girls Excited About Architecture and Engineering: “When Jennifer Kessler, Alice Brooks, and Bettina Chen were first-year masters students at Stanford, they couldn’t help but notice a striking absence of women in their math and science classes. Wanting to inspire an enthusiasm for the hard sciences in younger generations of girls, the women created Roominate, a buildable toy dollhouse that teaches kids about subjects like architecture and engineering, their website reports. Roominate is a stackable set of dollhouse rooms, made for girls ages 6-10. Each set includes build-your-own furniture, circuit boards, color-coded wires and a mini-motor to operate lights, fans and buzzers. Once girls decide on an overall structure for their houses, they can choose to wire each room for light or electronics, take apart and reassemble the customizable furniture, and even change the wallpaper as they see fit.”
  • Amazon Customers Go Rogue, Hilariously Review Bic’s Idiotic Pen for Women: “We’ve discussed the ridiculousness of Bic for Her — the pen specially marketed towards women, which, no, does not mean that they’re branded with the face of Betty Friedan — in the past, but it seems that consumers have now taken the mocking of the product into their own hands via Amazon UK, a site where you can now find page after page of brilliant and hilarious fake product reviews from clever users who are alternately thrilled that there’s finally a tool that women can write with, confused because they’ve never seen a pen before or concerned about the dangerous path that allowing women to write will inevitably lead us down.”
  • A Challenger Appears for the Fake Geek Girl Meme: “But if there’s one we wouldn’t mind eradicating from the internet, it’d be the Idiot Nerd Girl Advice Animal meme. It’s emblematic of the persisting idea that tells people it’s ok to nastily call women out for not being “authentically geeky” enough… Dark Horse Comics editor Rachel Edidin, however, had the idea to try and turn that around a week ago, by creating a sort of anti-meme that, instead of presuming that the pictured girl is pretending to like nerdy things in order to get attention, presumes that the girl actually knows her stuff and is tired of people assuming she doesn’t because of her gender. And a week later? A quick check of QuickMeme is about half full with defiant nerd girls.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence] Study Says: Television With Powerful Female Characters Causes People To Have Higher Opinions Of Women: “The idea that a powerful female character outweighs violence against women so much that women actually find those shows more reassuring than shows without violence at all is pretty amazing. The idea that the men in the study found shows with sexual violence against passive women to be the most comforting is less so.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence] Joss Whedon Is The Tim Wise of Sci-Fi: “He includes ~strong female characters~, feminist characters, queer characters in his work. Great, I’m in. But then he proceeds to do really gross things to them. He undermines them, tears them down, places them into incredibly misogynist and abusive frameworks and then frames their heroism as clawing their way up out of that (if it doesn’t kill them) without adding anything new to the discussion. Then he proceeds to collect praise for confronting issues when he’s not really confronting them so much as using them as cheap narrative devices.”

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.