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Thread: Women in Science - food for thought

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    Exclamation Women in Science - food for thought

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com...science-didnt/

    Something worth keeping in mind. Broadly speaking, encouraging ANYONE with talent to do STEM is a gift to the future.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com...science-didnt/

    Something worth keeping in mind. Broadly speaking, encouraging ANYONE with talent to do STEM is a gift to the future.
    Exactly true, and, alas, STEM isn't the only field where it's pandemic. The glass ceiling in business is not a myth. My daughter, in banking, has consistently seen less-experienced and less-qualified men moved into positions with much more opportunity for growth.

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    It's true in a lot of fields.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    A large photograph of My Wife The Professor has been frowning at me recently, when I walk through the local Life Sciences campus. It's one of a number of photographs of local female scientists of international repute which are being displayed, above their abbreviated CVs, at various points around the campus.

    When we actually have some positive role models (with which my profession is now extensively blessed), we really shouldn't forget to emphasize the positive.

    Grant Hutchison
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    One of my college professors, Dr Lois Graham, was one of the first women to get a degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and one of the first one or two to get an engineering PhD in Illinois. When I had her for thermodynamics, she was probably one of a fewer than a hundred tenured women on engineering faculties.



    I also remember a male co-worker having a temper tantrum -- as in yelling and cursing -- because the woman engineer in the group, who was both more competent and in a different specialty than he, was promoted, not him.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



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    Just to expand on my plea for the use of positive role models, I do worry about the unintended negative consequences of the article linked in the OP. A lot of school-age children with an interest in science read Scientific American, and for a girl considering a career in science, that piece essentially tells her it's all going to be futile and dreadful, with a side-order of bullying and belittling.

    Grant Hutchison
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    During life, we all develop attitudes and strategies to make our interactions with others more pleasant and useful. If I mention mine here, those comments can apply only to myself, my experiences and my situation. Such remarks cannot and should not be construed as dismissing, denigrating, devaluing or criticizing any different attitudes and strategies that other people have evolved as a result of their different situation and different experiences.

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    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-45717060

    Comments from British scientists who are women, on the topic of women in science.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    My Wife The Professor once received an award in recognition of her clinical research (well, more than once, but only once that's of relevance here). There was a dinner in her honour, to which I was also invited, hosted by a prestigious academic organization. When we arrived in the reception hall, already teeming with guests, a greeter said she'd go and tell the president of the organization. We watched her walk across to a guy wearing a chain of office who was deep in conversation at the far side of the room. She spoke to him, and pointed in our direction, and he immediately broke off from what he was doing and came striding across the room towards us. All the way across, he was making eye contact with me, and I was shaking my head and gesturing to my wife. But he marched right up to me, shook my hand, greeted me by my wife's name and title (we have different surnames), congratulated me and assured me how much he'd been looking forward to meeting me. Behind him, I could see the greeter and what turned out to be most of the awards committee literally clutching their heads in horror - one of them even turned away, covering his eyes.

    "Oops," I said, still shaking my head, and watched as the penny dropped - he went so white I thought he was actually going to faint.
    My wife favoured him with a huge smile and enquired brightly, "Would you like to try all that again?"
    "Oh Christ, yes," he said.

    ETA: My wife's take on this is that it functioned as a sort of educational outreach - no-one involved in the horror of that debacle would ever make the same mistake again.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2018-Oct-03 at 03:45 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Just to expand on my plea for the use of positive role models, I do worry about the unintended negative consequences of the article linked in the OP. A lot of school-age children with an interest in science read Scientific American, and for a girl considering a career in science, that piece essentially tells her it's all going to be futile and dreadful, with a side-order of bullying and belittling.
    I'm curious if your wife has seen the article and has this same view of it. We have three daughters, two with science degrees. My oldest married a guy that discouraged her continuing education. That contributed a little to the decision for the divorce. She got accepted at Cal-Poly and earned her science degree while caring for their child. The day after the graduation ceremony, she married a great guy who encouraged her education and even graduated with her and with the same degree. They both work for the same company and are doing fine. The grandparents are happy.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    I'm curious if your wife has seen the article and has this same view of it.
    Her view is very negative, with regard to both the message and some of the narrative choices.

    The effect of unrelenting negativity is certainly more than a theoretical problem. A woman I know is currently going through what she describes as a "perfect MeToo storm" with her teenage daughters - both bright, and up to now friendly and outgoing kids, from her account. The older daughter followed the #MeToo story with keen attention, and has presumably shared a lot of detail with her younger sister. The younger sister (12 or 13 years old) has now asked if she can be moved to an all-girls school, because she's frightened when the boys in her class speak to her. And the older sister has announced that she has abandoned her plans to study languages at university, because "it's all rape culture". Now, these kids have a mother who enjoyed a happy time at school and university and who has risen to the top of her profession, and who has a loving, stable marriage with a good man - but they're really struggling to get a moderating message across to their panicked daughters.

    Grant Hutchison
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    Note:
    During life, we all develop attitudes and strategies to make our interactions with others more pleasant and useful. If I mention mine here, those comments can apply only to myself, my experiences and my situation. Such remarks cannot and should not be construed as dismissing, denigrating, devaluing or criticizing any different attitudes and strategies that other people have evolved as a result of their different situation and different experiences.

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    This looked relevant... not particularly good news.


    https://arxiv.org/abs/1810.01511

    The Leaky Pipeline for Postdocs: A study of the time between receiving a PhD and securing a faculty job for male and female astronomers

    Kevin Flaherty (Submitted on 2 Oct 2018)

    The transition between receiving a PhD and securing a tenure track faculty position is challenging for nearly every astronomer interested in working in academia. Here we use a publicly available database of recently hired faculty (the Astrophysics Job Rumor Mill) to examine the amount of time astronomers typically spend in this transitory state. ... (continued at link)
    Last edited by Jim; 2018-Oct-04 at 03:58 PM. Reason: Edited. Post summary, not all
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    I don't really think sheltering girls from the knowledge that these things happen is the right answer.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    I don't really think sheltering girls from the knowledge that these things happen is the right answer.
    Dear god, of course it isn't! What they need is an awareness of the problems, combined with a realistic survival kit in their mental toolboxes, and at least a hint that something worthwhile and fulfilling can be achievable.
    Hence my enthusiasm for positive role models - in medicine, we have at least twenty years of research showing that they do make a real difference to career choices, and to people sticking with a chosen career even when it all goes a bit crap for a while.

    Grant Hutchison
    Blog

    Note:
    During life, we all develop attitudes and strategies to make our interactions with others more pleasant and useful. If I mention mine here, those comments can apply only to myself, my experiences and my situation. Such remarks cannot and should not be construed as dismissing, denigrating, devaluing or criticizing any different attitudes and strategies that other people have evolved as a result of their different situation and different experiences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Dear god, of course it isn't! What they need is an awareness of the problems, combined with a realistic survival kit in their mental toolboxes, and at least a hint that something worthwhile and fulfilling can be achievable.
    Hence my enthusiasm for positive role models - in medicine, we have at least twenty years of research showing that they do make a real difference to career choices, and to people sticking with a chosen career even when it all goes a bit crap for a while.

    Grant Hutchison
    IOW no bad news without mixing it with good news?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    IOW no bad news without mixing it with good news?
    Only if there is good news, of course. Sometimes there isn't.
    But yes, when talking to kids about all the negative things in life, we generally try to bundle that narrative together with stuff they can do to avoid or mitigate these bad things, or with good things that (at least potentially) make enduring the bad worthwhile. It's a package. And if it's delivered by someone who has been there, done that and is still cheerful, all the better.

    Grant Hutchison
    Blog

    Note:
    During life, we all develop attitudes and strategies to make our interactions with others more pleasant and useful. If I mention mine here, those comments can apply only to myself, my experiences and my situation. Such remarks cannot and should not be construed as dismissing, denigrating, devaluing or criticizing any different attitudes and strategies that other people have evolved as a result of their different situation and different experiences.

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    OK folks; this is supposed to be a thread on women in science, not women's self-defense. I'm going to try to split off those posts to a thread in OTB. I'll return with that link.

    PS - I've moved those posts to HERE.

    Let's keep this thread on the specific topic.
    Last edited by Swift; 2018-Oct-08 at 04:57 PM.
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    Back on track. The NYT recently ran an article on Margaret Kivelson who led the magnetometer team that concluded there was a subsurface ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa. Her story is similar to many others of women fighting for, first, access to education, and then to be heard within a discipline. And she is still working, contributing to the planned NASA Clipper probe to Europa.

    She graduated [high school] and was accepted to Harvard [in 1946], which formally excluded women, consigning them officially to Radcliffe College — a separate school without a faculty. Harvard professors would walk across the commons to repeat their lectures to women. “Women were not invited into the Harvard classrooms,” she said.

    It was there that she found physics, which allowed her to use math in such a way that answers had to make physical sense.

    “I had the good fortune of starting my studies at a time when physics was regarded as the most exciting field. This was right after World War II,” she said. “Physicists had saved the world with the atom bomb and radar. And suddenly people noticed that physics was not only a wonderfully fundamental discipline, but that it was also useful.”

    By her sophomore year, there were no separate classes. In the wonderland of the atomic age, physics professors no longer had time to repeat their lectures. “It was ridiculous to lecture to 10 women for one hour and then to 400 men the next,” she said.

    Not that the situation suddenly improved for Harvard women. When she entered the physics graduate program, she was often the only woman in her classes.

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