Posts Tagged ‘Women in science’

So few of them…

June 24, 2009

In the latest issue of the respected Scientific American, contributor Katherine Harmon asks (once again) the usual question, namely, Why Aren’t More Women Tenured Science Professors ?
The article expounds a familiar thesis, namely that “Many women get a close look at the academic prospects ahead and say, ‘This job is not designed for me'”. In fact, “With long hours, tight funding and pressure to publish, an academic job may be a less appealing choice today for many doctoral grads, regardless of gender.” The article then goes on to suggest that ” “A woman who is thinking of starting a family [is] seen as a weakness”, and that “we have to change the culture of academic science”.


Gender bias in academic science

May 10, 2009

Many a male scientist would have you believe that, when it comes to pursuing an academic career in a scientific field, female candidates at various levels enjoy a preferential treatment, often being chosen over equally or better qualified male applicants. This is allegedly due to a concerted effort taking place in many countries in the western world, aimed at increasing academic female representation in fields of science and engineering where women have traditionally been vastly outnumbered by men.
On the other hand, many if not most female scientists take issue with the above contention. They maintain that such actions, if they occur at all, have little or no effect in an environment that is dominated by and strongly biased in favor of men, and where women attempting to establish a career routinely face more or less overt discrimination.


Happy 100th Birthday, Rita

April 19, 2009
Italian scientist and Nobel laureate Rita Levi Montalcini

Italian scientist and Nobel laureate Rita Levi Montalcini

It does not even seem true. Of course, time does not stop, we all get older but… are you really turning 100 ?
Wow… the way you keep working, advocating for science in Italy and abroad, serving in the Italian senate and articulating your thoughts better than many who could be your great-grand-children… well, I for one surely wish that I could be as sharp as you are at my age, let alone yours.

You have been, are, and will always be an inspiration for all of us, women and men, scientists and non-scientists, in Italy and abroad. Your accomplishments seem all the more amazing considering the odds that you have overcome — a Jewish person living through fascism, a woman in the sciences…
There are very few like you — sure, there are other Nobel prize winners (albeit very few of them are women), many good scientists, good politicians, serious professionals, and generally people of the highest integrity. But very few are capable of eliciting the admiration of everyone, like you.
Thank you for your first 100 years, Rita. I wish you could live 100 more. The world could definitely use someone like you until your very last day.

Science and Sexism

December 10, 2008

"You should look to marry a millionaire, like my son […] With that smile of yours, you could…"
Italian Prime Minister, to a young woman explaining to him how hard it is to find a job, these days.

The subject of women under-representation in the sciences is one of the most hotly (and often bitterly) debated — in public, on the printed press, and of course inside blogosphere. Sexism is often put forward as a plausible, likely reason underlying the infrequency with which women take on leadership positions in the scientific enterprise, be that in academia or in national or private research laboratories.
Read more…

Open Letter (more on S. Towers’ paper)

April 28, 2008

The following was sent to Sherry Towers as an e-mail this morning:

Dear Dr. Towers,

this is in response to your web post titled Hatred. You may or not have noticed my own review of your article (by the way, yes, I have read your article, and found it generally interesting and stimulating). If you have, I hope you have appreciated the fact that my entry does not contain a single personal attack, toward you nor anyone else; I do not think it can be, in fairness, called “hateful” by any standard.
I completely agree with you that name-calling does not belong in a civil and useful discourse, and that any possible personal stake or involvement that you may or not have in the matter, is immaterial to the scientific case that you expound.
I do, however, have some reservations on your conclusions; it is possible, and indeed likely, that they are correct, but I respectfully submit to you that they do not come out convincingly enough from the numbers that you quote in your paper.

I would be very interested in running my own statistical analysis, for which I need raw data (i.e., what you call “productivity” and number of conference presentations for each member of your sample). You are obviously right in stating that I, like anyone else, have full access to the database off of which you took them, and it is fully understood that the burden is on me to obtain them independently. However, as you certainly understand my task would be much simpler if you would kindly share your data with me, or anyone else who may wish to analyze them. I wish to point out to you that it is not just a matter of saving time; you have selected the members of your sample based on specific criteria (e.g., race), and it may not be easy for others to identify the very same 57 people.
The easiest way for you to do so, is (probably) to add them to your preprint, as another appendix. I think your case will be greatly strengthened.

Best regards,

Massimo Boninsegni “Okham”
Updates here

Gender discrimination in high energy physics ?

April 15, 2008

This is the subject of a recently uploaded ArXiv preprint (filed under Physics and Society). The author, physicist and statistician Sherry Towers, carries out a detailed analysis of the productivity and career paths of a sample of 57 postdoctoral researchers (48 males and 9 females) in high-energy physics, working on the Run II D0 experiment at Fermi National Laboratory (Fermilab) during the 1998-2006 period.
Upon comparing the relative productivities (assessed through co-authorship of internal progress reports) of female and male postdoctoral researchers, as well as the rates at which researchers in both groups were invited to speak at conferences and eventually landed university faculty appointments, the paper claims evidence of systematic gender bias.
The above is quite an indictment, one to be taken very seriously, especially for a field of scientific inquiry, namely experimental high-energy physics, that prides itself of being as egalitarian and gender-blind as it gets.
Read more…

Women in physics: AIP survey

January 12, 2008

Following a discussion with a friend on the subject of women in science, and in physics in particular, I have looked up some recent data from the American Institute of Physics, specifically their 2005 survey of “more than 1350 women physicists from more than 70 countries […] cover[ing] women physicists’ experiences in education and careers”.
There is one thing about this study that I find odd. I assume that one of its aims was to address gender inequities in physics careers; however, no comparison is attempted of corresponding data for women and men, which renders the scope of the study limited, and the interpretation of some of the data ambiguous.
Read more…