Damn those women, out there ruining science and being lazy and depressed

Via Ed, if you puked on VoxDay’s shoes after his column earlier this week in WorldNetDaily:

But this is not to say there is not a genuine threat to all three aspects of science today. Unsurprisingly, it comes from the same force that is the primary threat to the survival of Western civilization: female equalitarianism. Flush with their success in decimating the collegiate sports programs of America, the equalitarians have now set their sights on applying the infamous Title IX quotas to science education, despite the fact that women already earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 59 percent of master’s degrees and a majority of doctorates. If successful in this effort, and initial signs indicate that they probably will be, in 30 years, academic science in America will be no more intellectually respectable or relevant than womyn’s studies are today.

or today’s column about women and depression by Dennis Prager:

As a rule, women derive most of their happiness from relationships, not from work. Men need both to be happy far more than women do. Men’s very identity is predicated on their answer to the question, “What do you do?” Whether fair or not – to either sex – virtually no woman’s identity is dependent on what she does for a living. That is why, while both sexes suffer financially from the loss of a job, when men lose their jobs, they often also lose their self-worth as a man. The greater importance of work to men is also manifested in their willingness to work many more hours than women.

you should head to Current Biology and read this article by Nobelist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard regarding her views and experience as a woman in science. Granted, it’s not an antidote to the stupidity oozing from WND and its columnists, but at least Nüsslein-Volhard has some experience with what she’s writing about–although some of the anecdotes she describes may still be hurl-inducing.

Follow-up on “Math doesn’t suck” discussion

The Danica McKellar posts (review; interview) have sparked some discussion that I want to address here. It largely centers on the issue of McKellar’s approach: is it a good one? Or is it trying to replace one Bad Thing (girls’ dislike of math) with another Bad Thing (encouraging them to be, as one commenter put it, “consumerist tools of the patriarchy”?) More below…

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Microbiologist Rita Colwell to receive National Medal of Science

In terms of physical size, microbiologist Rita Colwell is a petitie woman. However, her distinguished research and service career has made her a giant in her field. Her research revolves around many aspects of water ecology, including the intersection of the environment and infectious disease (as I wrote about here following a talk she gave this past spring).

Much of her research has focused on Vibrio cholerae, including devising simple (and inexpensive) methods to remove the bacterium from contaminated water using cloth filtration. For these achievements and more, Dr. Colwell will be awarded the National Medal of Science tomorrow. More after the jump…

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Interview with math whiz, author, and actress Danica McKellar

Yesterday I reviewed Danica McKellar’s forthcoming book, Math Doesn’t Suck. When I contacted the book’s publicist about receiving a review copy, I also inquired about an interview with Danica, and she graciously agreed. Perhaps this will cover some topics brought up in the comments section of my book review as well, as she discusses her motivation for writing the book, and what she hopes girls get out of it (in addition to a number of other topics!) Enjoy, and thanks again to Danica for taking the time to address my questions.
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Danica McKellar’s “Math Doesn’t Suck”

It’s not a rosy picture for girls in math. As Barbie infamously framed it, girls should think that “math is hard.” While Mattel (rightly) received a lot of flack for that comment, the sad fact is that Barbie was reflecting the attitude many girls tend to take toward mathematics education: it’s difficult, it’s boring, and who needs it anyway? Surveys have shown that, while girls and boys in elementary school show similar attitudes toward mathematics, by junior high girls tend to have a negative attitude toward math, along with lower confidence in their ability to handle math problems. Of course, this also has a negative effect on getting women to enter (or stay in) science and technology concentrations in college, as all require at least some courses in mathematics. Therefore, women choose to opt out of these–in many cases, due to attitudes that began to develop during those Barbie years.

However, the news is not all bad. Studies also show that interventions can be made by teachers and by parents to retain girls’ interest in math. This can be done by encouraging and developing girls’ abilities, and helping them to overcome stereotypes of girls as “bad at math,” or that girls who are good at math are just “nerds” who will never get a date. Mathematician/author/actress Danica McKellar tackles the latter in her first book, Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. More after the jump…
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University of Iowa selects a new president

Sally Mason Named University Of Iowa’s 20th President.

Interesting. A female biologist, currently Provost at Purdue:

During her tenure at Purdue, Mason invested both professionally and personally in diversity and innovative research and education.

She raised funds for and implemented a number of major diversity initiatives at Purdue, including creation of a Native American education and cultural center and a Latino Cultural Center, joining a black cultural center already on campus. She started two programs funded by the National Science Foundation that work to increase retention and graduation rates among students in science fields, especially minorities. And she recently implemented a new initiative that focuses on recruitment, including more minority faculty appointments, professional development programs, and incentives for teaching and research on diversity.

In 2004, Mason and her husband, Kenneth, gave a $2 million gift to create the Sally K. and Kenneth A. Mason Fund in support of Purdue’s Discovery Learning Center (DLC). The DLC, one of 10 interdisciplinary research centers in Purdue’s new Discovery Park, was created to advance research that revolutionizes learning in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math). Through externally funded research projects, innovative programs, and collaborative partnerships, the DLC is seeks to redesign educational practices and create innovative learning environments that, according to the DLC’s Web site, “have immediate impact and nurture lifelong learning for students and citizens of a global community.”

Irony

So, I’m back from AAAS, and starting to catch up on everything. The conference flew by, and I still have a few posts in the wings on the evolution symposium that took place on Friday, as well as some other tidbits from sessions I attended. Overall, I thought the conference was very good from a networking perspective. In addition to those I already mentioned (Janet, John, and Jeremy), I also ran into Chris Mooney and Ewen Callaway at a reception Saturday night, and met up with Eugenie Scott and several other NCSE folks during various sessions (more on that in the aforemetioned upcoming post). However, I found a lot of the sessions I attended to be somewhat repetitive, and I’m not coming home with that “wow, my brain is stuffed with so many ideas I can’t wait to get them all down on paper” feeling that I usually have after conferences. Still, I knew that AAAS wasn’t a research-heavy conference, so I suppose it was a good experience for what it was–discussing science in general.

However, along the lines of the “networking” idea, I was browsing the program Friday night and noticed a networking breakfast that looked interesting, to be held Saturday morning: “women and minorities in science.” Great, right up my alley, I thought.

I read the next line.

“Invitation only.”

So, maybe next year I’ll have done enough networking to snag an invitation to the networking breakfast…

There’s no crying in academia!

Over at Am I a woman scientist? I ran across this post discussing crying in the workplace. I’d never given much consideration to the issue previously, but there are several thought-provoking posts and articles on the topic.

First, let me take a step back to a post Am I a woman scientist? linked to, here at A Natural Scientist musing about crying as a sign of weakness in women. From there, a link goes back to this Chronicle story describing the aftermath of a miscarriage, and the author’s inability to discuss it with anyone at work for fear of breaking down and crying.

Some interesting themes emerged from these posts. First, and probably fairly obvious, is the fear of crying in front of colleagues (and particularly male colleagues), for fear of being perceived as weak or unprofessional:
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NY Times on women and science

After the discussion here and elsewhere in yonder blogosphere about women and stereotyping, Cornelia Dean in the New York Times writes about recent meeting aimed at helping women advance in science, where bias still rages.

This fall, female scientists at Rice University here gathered promising women who are graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to help them learn skills that they will need to deal with the perils of job hunting, promotion and tenure in high-stakes academic science.

“The reality is there are barriers that women face,” said Kathleen S. Matthews, the dean of natural sciences at Rice, who spoke at the meeting’s opening dinner. “There are circles and communities of engagement where women are by and large not included.”

Instead, they talk about what they have to know and do to get ahead. They talk about unspoken, even unconscious sexism that means they must be better than men to be thought as good — that they must, as one Rice participant put it, literally and figuratively wear a suit and heels, while men can relax in jeans.

They muse on the importance of mentoring and other professional support and talk about ways women can provide it for each other if they do not receive it from their professors or advisers.

And they obsess about what they call “the two body problem,” the extreme difficulty of reconciling a demanding career in science with marriage and a family — especially, as is more often the case for women than men in science, when the spouse also has scientific ambitions.

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Science, intelligence, and teh pretty

So, razib relates a recent observation of the apparently rare species hottus chicas scientificas at a local wine bar. Shelley’s ticked:

Not sure whether to be more irked that Razib suggests that smart women aren’t hot (and vice versa), that hot women don’t like sci fi, or than sci fi somehow denotes intelligence. Booooooooo.

While razib tells her to “focus on the science fiction part. not the intelligence,” I agree with Shelley’s later comment that who cares exactly whether he was talking about SciFi or intelligence–the idea that, because one is female and “hot,” one therefore cannot be a certain way or like a certain thing is just stupid. More annoyed ranting after the jump…
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