A post I co-authored with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and Professor Rajini Rao has just been published on the science website, Nature.com. We address the false idea that girls are fundamentally inferior to boys at science due to our biological capabilities. We examine how gender stereotypes negatively impact women’s careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Gender stereotypes are perpetuated through the stories we tell children as soon as they’re born. We show how children in Prep and Grade 1 tend to draw scientists in gender-neutral ways, but by Grade 2 onwards, they start drawing White men in lab coats. By Grade 5 the stereotype that only White men are scientists has taken hold. The stereotype is both gendered and racial, as research shows that even minorities tend to draw White men, thus affecting diversity in science on multiple levels.
This stereotype is used in other ways by teachers, parents, the media and by other figures of authority to force girls to consider that maybe they’re not fit to do science. This is known as the “leaky pipeline,” with studies showing how girls and women leave STEM at various stages of their education and careers due to the cultural pressures and institutional obstacles they face.
It is imperative that those of us committed to equality and diversity collaborate with scientists from other fields in order to make progress. We can’t take for granted that our colleagues will eventually come to see the damage done by biological arguments. We can’t simply leave girls to navigate gender stereotypes on their own. We can’t rely on women being “more confident” and assertive when faced with discrimination, as research shows these individual approaches don’t work.
Read our article including the empirical evidence on the Nature website: http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2014/09/04/nature-vs-nurture-girls-and-stem
Tomorrow I’ll be co-hosting an important panel discussion on the science and myths of Ebola. By now you would’ve likely read hundreds of scary headlines about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with lots of hand-wringing about why “Africa” isn’t being quarantined already. Perhaps you saw Donald Trump say that American medical staff should not have been let back into the USA to get treatment? Did you hear about the “top secret” cure that greedy scientists/ policy-makers aren’t sharing? Maybe you saw reputable media like The New York Times dutifully creating panic with headlines about Americans visiting hospitals thinking they had Ebola (but actually just had the flu)? Or the right-wing arguments that Latin American migrants are crossing over to the USA and bringing the disease? And what about the pigs - can they make us sick? They did in the Hollywood movie Contagion! Is “the Government” holding back science about aerosol transmission of Ebola? So much to fear, but what can we believe?
The fact is… most of what the media is reporting is incorrect.
Ebola is not airborne. It is transmitted by close contact with blood and bodily fluids and secretions (not by coughing or merely by touch). This is why Ebola is spreading in developing nations with inadequate healthcare.
My co-host, molecular biologist Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe, and I will be talking with virology expert Professor Vincent Racaniello and Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Dr Tara C. Smith. They’ll talk about what Ebola is, how it’s transmitted, how the current epidemic might be contained, and we’ll also talk about some of of the media-driven misconceptions about the virus. We’ll discuss why an outbreak in developed nations is unlikely and we’ll cover the socio-economic factors sustaining the epidemic in poorer nations.
Head to our Science on Google+ event page to read more. I answered a question about whether Ebola might spread through the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca (highly unlikely) and why the United Nations says travel bans are not necessary. You can also despair over the various conspiracy theories being espoused, which our Science Moderators like biochemist Professor Rajini Rao are patiently dispelling.
We’ll broadcast on Monday 7.30AM Australian EST time (that’s Sunday 2.30pm USA Pacific or 10.30PM UK). You can watch our video later at your leisure on our Science on Google+ YouTube Channel, Science Hangouts.
Can’t wait until tomorrow and want to read a little ahead? We republished an excellent introduction about Ebola by biologist Maren Hunsberger. Tara has also written a couple of easy to understand explanations on why Ebola is not airborne and an historical perspective on Ebola responses. Watch Vincent lead a discussion about why the epidemic has spread and how it might be curtailed.
See you tomorrow for a sensible chat about the science and social policy responses to Ebola!
Eri Hayward shares her story of being a transgender woman in Utah, USA. She is of Japanese descent and was raised in a Mormon community, where she says she didn’t get an “opportunity to learn about things that were different,” like the support available to her as a transgender woman. This short documentary includes Eri and her parents reflecting on what it was like to understand her gender identity. She initially “came out as gay” but her story reflects that at the time this was a stepping stone “to be myself, which is a woman.”
Eri also talks about the difficulties of claiming her own sense of beauty and the moment when she learned about what it means to be transgender. She was visiting her grandmother in Japan, when her grandmother pointed out a parade of transgender people and said, “Oh, this is all about you!” Later, Eri is shown talking with family and friends about her upcoming sex reassignment surgery over a barbecue.
Both Eri and her parents discuss their desire for their Church to make transgender members feel included, including the right to a temple marriage. Eri notes that her faith has been, at times, a source of alienation, as she often feels uncomfortable at Church, but also a source of strength during her transition.
"I think that really being so uncomfortable in my body for the longest time helped me really separate what are physical things and what are my spiritual components. I don’t think I succumbed to my body. I think I succumbed to my spirit and what it needed.
It was just letting go and letting the picture come into focus without me trying to force it to be something that it’s not. But when it comes down to it, the only thing I can believe in is the relationship between me and God. “
This is really beautifully told story about intergenerational family connections and spirituality of transgender people of colour.
You can do it, it’s exciting… it’s understanding the universe and it’s being connected to the universe and making the world a better place.
- Candy Torres, Engineer.
What are you doing to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing? Spend it with us at STEM Women, and a veteran woman engineer of the space program! In 8 hours, we’ll be talking with Candy Torres, a Puerto Rican engineer who went from being one of only 10 women in her astrophysics classes at Rutgers University, to getting a job at Princeton University to work on the Copernicus OAO-3C Satellite and later, as a software programmer for NASA.
Candy was a STEM trailblazer from an early age. She had a firm dream to join the space program, but she encountered much push-back from her family and friends in the Bronx, where she was born. Latina women were simply not meant to have a career in STEM, or so she was told, let alone dream of contributing to the space race.
At age 14, Candy joined the Civil Air Patrol and she was flying a plane before she could drive. She encountered sexism early on, however, when she learned that girl cadets were not allowed to participate in some training sessions. She tells CNN: “We were supposed to go find a businessman who was lost in the woods, but the girls were not allowed.”
This attitude continued. At university in the 1970s, her classmates were less than welcoming of women. She tells CNN: “They were definitely not happy about having women in the class… I didn’t have any kind of support system. I didn’t get to know any of the other women, and the guys basically ignored me.”
Overcoming exclusion based on her gender and ethnicity, Candy would go on to use her computer programming skills to organise files for NASA. She later went on to work at Johnson Space Centre on software for the Space Shuttle as well as the International Space Station. She worked on various other space programs over the years, such as human factors.
Candy has been featured in various high-profile publications like The Atlantic, where she noted: "People don’t realize how many thousands of us worked on these programs… I loved being part of something big, and I knew that I had worked hard to be there."
Candy has continued her work in recent years by educating the public on space history, and supporting the inclusion of minority women in space programs. She is passionate about encouraging Latino youth to pursue engineering and science. She tells Latino USA that her message to Latina and other minority women is about being passionate, curious and tenacious.
Join us as we chat to Candy about her amazing journey through various space programs, and hear her advice for young girls and women who want to follow in her footsteps. We’ll be live on Sunday 20th July 2014 at 2.30 PM Pacific/ 10.30 PM UK or Monday 7.30 AM Australian EST. Check out our Event page for more details, including a link to our YouTube video if you want to catch up later.
American comedian Hari Kondabolu has a Bachelor degree in Comparative Politics and a Masters degree in Human Rights from the London School of Economics. His thesis focused on Mexican migrants and their rights under the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. He was also a human rights activist in Seattle. His comedy offers hilarious and biting social commentary. He recently appeared on Conan. He began by saying: “I would like you all to know that the theme of my set tonight will be colonialism. Which is why I’m speaking only in English.” He ends with a funny and clever chess allegory!
“Shit Men Say to Men Who Say Shit to Women on the Street” was inspired by International Anti-Street Harassment Week.
It was created by a group of women and men in NYC who believe that street harassment is wrong, and that we all have a role to play in ending it - especially us guys.
The video shows non-violent some ways that men can interrupt street harassment as it happens. (And it happens all the time. Seriously. Go check. We will wait.)
Join us by sharing this video. And the next time you witness street harassment - and you will - say some shit. Please.
For more information on this video, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I love these guys.
Training Women Engineers at Google
This morning, I co-hosted a STEM Women event along with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe. We spoke with two women who work on Google’s IT Residency Program. We asked them about how women can get involved with this program and how it helps them manage working in a male-dominated field. Erin manages the program which runs across several cities (including Sydney). They recruit new graduates like Sam, who spoke with us about her experience transitioning from studying computer science and working at the IT helpdesk in her university, to training on the program, and then getting a permanent role at Google as an engineer.
It was especially interesting to hear that Google recruits people who have strong social skills and training in other fields, rather than simply just for their technical speciality. For example Erin also had a language background (Spanish) as part of her degree and she gave a couple of examples of people hired from the social sciences (psych and neuropsychology). I enjoyed hearing Sam talk about the applied science aspects of her job. Specifically, how working on software engineering projects as part of the program took her in new directions that she would not have otherwise have thought of while studying.
“Steven Pinker on Metaphor and the Mind “I think that metaphor really is a key to explaining thought and language. The human mind comes equipped with an ability to penetrate the cladding of sensory appearance and discern the abstract construction underneath - not always on demand, and not infallibly, but often enough and insightfully enough to shape the human condition. Our powers of analogy allow us to apply ancient neural structures to newfound subject matter, to discover hidden laws and systems in nature, and not least, to amplify the expressive power of language itself.” “”
- Reblogged from amiquote
This graphic has been going around for a few weeks yet surprisingly with little analysis. A Backstage Sociologist first published it in late April, writing only:
Teaching and learning are not market transactions: They are sacred encounters of soulcraft. This graphic leaves one who teaches social science and the humanities with a heavy heart and despairing about the eventual extinction of well-educated citizens.
I suspect there is more to this chart and part of the soul searching should happen within sociology itself. I see the steep rise in business graduates and perhaps to a lesser extent in the life sciences and communications are partly a development in technology and the reality of the job market.
One way that sociology might address this is through a stronger focus on applied sociology. Without question, developing the sociological imagination has many personal and professional benefits, as critical thinking can help to improve civic participation and empower us to understand our lives in a broader context.
Then again, if you are a poor or otherwise disadvantaged young person thinking about the debt and other commitments you need to balance, pursuing a degree in sociology can be daunting. We are largely positioned as an academic discipline. There are few academic jobs for our graduates. Market forces may be driving graduates away from social science, but our discipline can be doing much more to demonstrate the applicability of our theories and methods to specific jobs and industries.
You can read more from my website Sociology at Work, with links to resources that can help provide tangible examples of how sociology students might find work in different industries, and how they might specifically use their degrees.
Unsurprisingly, Nietzsche never married.
(You can find what could be the weirdest misogynist claim in all of Philosophy at §234 of Beyond Good and Evil)
Woman: So what do you do, Friedrich?
Nietzsche: I’m a philosopher!
Woman: All philosophers I read claim that philosophy is a man’s trade and that women belong in the kitchen!
Nietzsche: Not me! I think that women need to get out of the kitchen!
Woman: Oh, I am glad to…
Nietzsche: ….because they are too stupid to cook!
Nothing has retarded the development of mankind more than bad female cooks!
You’d think thousands of years in the kitchen would teach them basic physiological facts, but no!
- Reblogged from stickyembraces
Meanwhile, in France….#20
"The author’s claim that individuals are the ultimate units of moral concern must be rejected, as the occurrence of the word ‘individual’ makes it of course equivalent to methodological individualism, which of course invariably and in any possible context serves to perpetuate the individualist ideology of capitalism"
Imagination word-association can be a powerful alternative to rational argument. When reading a Philosophical text, don’t ask yourself whether the argument is valid or not, but ask yourself “what dangerous message could this text possibly perpetuate when read by a borderline illiterate arsehole hell-bent on justifying totalitarian ideals?
- Reblogged from stickyembraces
Hey how is your paper on alienation going?
Augh I don’t know
I don’t feel connected to it.
I feel like it’s just another thing I have to do so I can pass. There’s no passion.
And even though there’s other students that feel the same way I feel like I can’t talk to them.
Sounds like you’re off to a good start.
- Reblogged from nerdyjokes
When most people think of labs, they imagine scientists in white coats staring into microscopes, carrying around beakers of bubbling chemicals, and holding test tubes over Bunsen burners. In social science, the reality is much more mundane. It’s usually just a room full of computers with software that may or may not be useful and may or may not be up to date. Even less compelling are the labs associated with statistical methods classes. The last couple years my own classes have been the worst case scenario–I just get up and lecture about how my students should use some particular piece of software to apply the methods we’ve been learning in the “lecture” part of the class. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Over the next few months I will have the opportunity to teach two new methods classes and completely re-invent how I incorporate labs. I had lunch with Mayur Desai the other day and I think he does a great job with labs in his classes and he’s inspired most (but not all) of the ideas here. This is what I’m thinking:
No lectures. None. Students enter the lab and get their assignment and spend the rest of the class trying to complete it.
Each assignment starts with a data set (preferably real) and a blank screen–that is, I don’t give them any code. Their job is to answer a substantive question by applying methods we’ve covered recently to the data.
Students work in pairs and take turns driving. I think this keeps students focused and they can teach each other. It also means only half the class has to have laptops if I want to implement a lab in a regular classroom.
I’m around to answer questions. In this way, it’s very different from a problem set where getting stuck on something dumb for hours at a time is a common occurrence. Struggling with problem is good for learning, but banging your head against a wall isn’t an efficient use of time.
The end product should be similar to results they might find in a published paper. Sometimes I’ll provide an empty table they must fill in and other times they will produce their own tables of results from scratch.
There should be opportunities for quicker/more advanced students to do more. One size does not fit all.
While it’s possible to use any statistical analysis tool in a lab successfully, I do think some packages are better than others. Most students already know Microsoft Excel and doing basic analyses (even regression) using it is easy, but you really hit a wall when you want to do anything even a little sophisticated. SAS is powerful, but there is a steep learning curve. My plan is to use Stata. You can browse your data in a spreadsheet style interface. You can play with commands through the menus and when you choose one, it shows you the command-line equivalent. You can work interactively at the command-line or build programs (using those same commands) in an editor. And the documentation is excellent and available online.
I’ll let you know how it goes!
- Reblogged from highvariance