Obstetric fistula is a condition that occurs during a prolonged childbirth where a woman lacks adequate healthcare. It results in tearing of the birth canal which leads to incontinence and results in 90% of babies being stillborn. As a result, women are left unable to control their bodies, leading to bad body odour. These women are often abandoned by their husbands and exiled from their communities for being “unclean.” It affects 2 million women in 55 countries. The condition is mostly preventable when women have access to healthcare and education. In most cases, surgery can repair damage.

UN-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says: 

Women with obstetric fistula sometimes die in shame abandoned by their families and often suffer lifelong physical and emotional effects — but there is hope. Skilled professionals know how to treat patients. With support, those who have been ostracized can reintegrate into their societies.”

Watch this video narrated by ambassador Natalie Imbruglia to learn more about the condition & how to help.

I’ll be co-hosting #ScienceChat on Twitter on the 9th of April, 2pm PDT USA/ Thursday 10th April, 7am Aussie time. Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I will be tweeting from our account @STEMWomen and our amazing colleague Profesor Rajini Rao will be one of our distinguished guests. We’ll discuss how we can improve women’s participation in Science Technology Engineering & Math. We’ll also talk about how we can address intersections of discrimination in STEM. 
The discussion includes 10 scientists from various fields, including sociologist Jessie Daniels, science presenter Julia Wilde (thatssoscience) Modzilla Science Lab Director Kaitlin Thaney, academic blogger Dr Isis, amongst other guests.
Join us using #sciencechat High-res

I’ll be co-hosting #ScienceChat on Twitter on the 9th of April, 2pm PDT USA/ Thursday 10th April, 7am Aussie time. Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I will be tweeting from our account @STEMWomen and our amazing colleague Profesor Rajini Rao will be one of our distinguished guests. We’ll discuss how we can improve women’s participation in Science Technology Engineering & Math. We’ll also talk about how we can address intersections of discrimination in STEM. 

The discussion includes 10 scientists from various fields, including sociologist Jessie Daniels, science presenter Julia Wilde (thatssoscience) Modzilla Science Lab Director Kaitlin Thaney, academic blogger Dr Isis, amongst other guests.

Join us using #sciencechat

Italian-Australian activist Anna Moo talks about her attraction to social justice and how she worked with a group of migrant women in the 1970s to achieve policy changes on migrant women’s reproductive health. In the video, Moo says:

We really wanted to connect back with the women that we were advocating with. They were not aware of health services that might have been available to them. The W.I.C.H. [Women in Industry Contraception and Health] education project was developed in conjunction with Australian women and women from many different backgrounds with the support of a number of organisations.

And the fantastic aspect of that education kit is the fact that it was taken to the factories by women who were themselves from multicultural backgrounds. Each worker spoke a language, a community language, whereby women could actually ask questions and be supported through the discussions. You know, what’s really amazing is that we still have Women in Industry Contraception and Health, it’s called a different name but it’s still that organisation… 

It’s really a testament to what women can do together.

Source: Immigration Museum.

 
Everyday Sexism in Academia
Earlier today, I co-hosted a panel discussion by STEM Women on Everyday Sexism in Academia, along with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe a Molecular Biologist from the UK. Our guests were Professor Rajini Rao PhD  in Biochemistry who runs her own lab at Johns Hopkins University USA, and Dr Tommy Leung, Evolutionary Biologist with the University of New England, Australia. 

We discussed the sociological definition of everyday sexism, which demonstrates how everyday social exchanges between individuals are connected to institutional discrimination. Specifically, how conversations between academic colleagues that are sometimes called “benevolent" or "unintentional" sexism, are actually the outcome of systemic issues of gender inequality. This includes “jokes” that play on a woman’s gender and sexuality (“You’re a cheap date”); complimenting a woman on her looks and propositioning a junior colleague at a conference; and critiquing a woman scientist for the way she speaks, such as saying she’s “too aggressive” in negotiations or “not nice enough” when addressing sexism (this is often known as “tone policing”). We also noted that everyday sexism intersects with other forms of discrimination, such as race, though overt forms of racial discrimination are more heavily sanctioned in academia. (Even still, institutional racism persists.) White male academics do not experience the same additional pressures in university careers.

We also covered the recent case where the Journal of Proteomics published a photo of a bare chested woman in an abstract to promote a scientific paper (more on this later but you can read our article on our STEM Woman website). Finally we discussed how, even in professional contexts, people often discuss women scientists as mothers and wives first, rather than focusing on their professional achievements. For example in The New York Times obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill.

Everyday sexism shows that women’s gender is a both a barrier to professional recognition, as well as a heavily policed focal point of scrutiny.

People think these seemingly innocuous examples of sexism are subjective - that women should just take a joke and not be “so sensitive.” We showed how social science actually connects these everyday comments to the professional barriers that women face in their scientific careers. This includes women’s pay, their career progression and professional esteem, their publications, women’s contribution and participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and other more overt forms of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.
coolchicksfromhistory:

coolchicksfromhistory:

Women vote in Japan
When these women were voting and what they were voting for is hard to figure out.  Japanese women were not given the right to vote until 1946.  Not only does this image look like it is from significantly earlier, the photographer stopped working in the 1930s.  From 1921 onwards, Japanese women were allowed to attend political meetings so possible this image is from an internal party vote.  The mix of Western and Japanese dress also fits with this image being from the 1920s.
Of course, since I can’t read Japanese I could be totally wrong. 

Reblogging an early Cool Chicks from History post because apparently there are a lot of Japanese history buffs online right now.  Maybe someone can figure out this photo.
High-res

coolchicksfromhistory:

coolchicksfromhistory:

Women vote in Japan

When these women were voting and what they were voting for is hard to figure out.  Japanese women were not given the right to vote until 1946.  Not only does this image look like it is from significantly earlier, the photographer stopped working in the 1930s.  From 1921 onwards, Japanese women were allowed to attend political meetings so possible this image is from an internal party vote.  The mix of Western and Japanese dress also fits with this image being from the 1920s.

Of course, since I can’t read Japanese I could be totally wrong. 

Reblogging an early Cool Chicks from History post because apparently there are a lot of Japanese history buffs online right now.  Maybe someone can figure out this photo.

iowawomensarchives:

Collect them all!!

In 1978, Lois Rich was asked by her 8-year-old daughter, a baseball card collector, why there weren’t any pictures of girls on the cards. By the following year, Rich had sought out and received grant funding from educational organizations to create the Supersisters trading card set, featuring 72 feminist heroines [source]. With subjects ranging from puppeteer Shari Lewis to politician and future IWA co-founder Mary Louise Smith, the cards have been dismissed by some modern-day pundits as a “noble but misguided” project (“It’s sort of hard to imagine kids getting excited about them — ‘Hey, I’ll trade you two Bella Abzugs for a mint Shirley Chisolm!’”). However, I find them a fascinating artifact documenting the areas in which women were — and weren’t — making progress during the second wave of feminism. 

 former IWA assistant and current archivist supersister Sarah Dorpinghaus

Iowa Digital Library: Supersisters trading cards, 1979

Iowa Women’s Archives: Guide to the Mary Louise Smith papers, 1925-1997

View all Women’s History Wednesday posts

(via coolchicksfromhistory)

Jamie Kilstein on white male privilege.

Via Tommy Leung.

On STEM Women, we did a series of posts on women who are pioneers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math). I wrote a piece about Evelyn Boyd Granville, who was only the second African American woman to gain a PhD in Mathematics in the USA, in the early 1940s. I especially loved reading all her personal recollections of the sacrifices that her mother and aunt made to put her through university. It seems a moot point to say that parents play a pivotal role in their children’s success. This is not so simple when we understand the empirical evidence of how institutional and social forces can limit parents and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Parents don’t always know how to support girls into STEM careers, and more importantly, they don’t always have the resources or knowledge about where to seek additional help. This is especially pertinent for the careers of minority women in STEM.
Granville was raised in a single parent home by Julia Boyd, her poor working mother who wholeheartedly supported her daughter’s education. This was a very brave move given that in the 1940s, there were few educational or work opportunities for women in science, let alone for minority women. Granville recalls:

I saw black women - attractive, well dressed women - teaching school, and I wanted to be a teacher because that’s all I saw. I was not aware of any other profession… I did not receive a scholarship the first year at (Smith College), and I was told later that they didn’t see how in the world a poor child as I could afford to go there. 

Granville faced much discrimination along the way, not just in finding work despite her obvious brilliance, but in other ways that should have impeded her progress. For example, she was not able to find accommodation in New York when she moved there to undertake her postdoctoral work. 
Learn more about this phenomenal woman from our STEM Women page on Google+! High-res

On STEM Women, we did a series of posts on women who are pioneers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math). I wrote a piece about Evelyn Boyd Granville, who was only the second African American woman to gain a PhD in Mathematics in the USA, in the early 1940s. I especially loved reading all her personal recollections of the sacrifices that her mother and aunt made to put her through university. It seems a moot point to say that parents play a pivotal role in their children’s success. This is not so simple when we understand the empirical evidence of how institutional and social forces can limit parents and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Parents don’t always know how to support girls into STEM careers, and more importantly, they don’t always have the resources or knowledge about where to seek additional help. This is especially pertinent for the careers of minority women in STEM.

Granville was raised in a single parent home by Julia Boyd, her poor working mother who wholeheartedly supported her daughter’s education. This was a very brave move given that in the 1940s, there were few educational or work opportunities for women in science, let alone for minority women. Granville recalls:

I saw black women - attractive, well dressed women - teaching school, and I wanted to be a teacher because that’s all I saw. I was not aware of any other profession… I did not receive a scholarship the first year at (Smith College), and I was told later that they didn’t see how in the world a poor child as I could afford to go there. 

Granville faced much discrimination along the way, not just in finding work despite her obvious brilliance, but in other ways that should have impeded her progress. For example, she was not able to find accommodation in New York when she moved there to undertake her postdoctoral work. 

Learn more about this phenomenal woman from our STEM Women page on Google+!

Happy International Women’s Day! I’ll do a couple of posts on this over the next day to commemorate this glorious day for both my time zone in Australia and the rest of you in other parts of the world. I want to start with the challenges that lie ahead before celebrating the achievements of women social scientists I admire. Our STEM Women community has been publishing a series of posts celebrating women in sciences, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). We started with a look at the number of Nobel prize laureates. 

We found that in its 113 year history, only 17 women scientists have been recognised amongst 692 Noble Prize winners (though this number counts Marie Curie twice for winning in two different fields). That means that less than 3% of Nobel winners are women. This is not due to women’s lack of scientific contribution, but due to the history and culture of the sciences. No woman has ever won the special Maths prize. While some social scientists have been recognised via the Nobel Peace Prize, only one woman social scientist has won a prize for science: Elinor Ostrom who won in 2009 for the special prize in Economics.

We looked at the way in which women have been used as the symbol of science - two women appear on the back of the Nobel medal - the goddess of natural phenomena (Natura) and the goddess of knowledge (Scientia). So while women can be muses for scientific excellence, our research and innovation remain on the margins of science’s highest organisation. 

We had a phenomenal backlash when we shared this to our other science community, Science on Google+ (three of us who run STEM Women are also Moderators for SoG+). Various sexist arguments followed, ranging from: “Women aren’t as smart as men” to “This probably isn’t sexism, it’s something else (but somehow it’s women’s fault still).” None of these people presented evidence, but rather they relied on biased personal anecdotes.This thread was incredibly counter-productive; rather than engaging with the science presented, people wanted to argue that they don’t think that this is an example in sexism.

I’ve previously written why personal observations that refuse gender inequality don’t count as science, and how this is connected to the sociology of beliefs, attitudes, power and culture. For the record, a plethora of studies refute these arguments. Empirical data shows various historical, institutional and cultural reasons why women’s careers and achievements are not recognised in the same way as men. 

The second image I’ve attached is a quote from Elizabeth Blackburn, who won a Nobel prize in 2009. She has a timely reminder that ties into why we still need International Women’s Day:

This idea that ‘Science needs women’ is really right on target… The ability to solve complex problems is greatly enriched by having different viewpoints.

Read more of our STEM Women posts commemorating this special day on our Google+ page. I’ll be back with more posts on the women who inspired me and more on diversity in social science.

A man who assisted in autopsies in a big urban hospital, starting in the mid-1950s, describes the many deaths from botched abortions that he saw. “The deaths stopped overnight in 1973.” He never saw another in the 18 years before he retired. “That,” he says, “ought to tell people something about keeping abortion legal.”

“The Way It Was” — Mother Jones Magazine — Abortion before Roe v. Wade. (via feministteapot)

Never forget: Roe v. Wade wasn’t the beginning of abortion in America. It was the beginning of the end of illegal abortions. If you haven’t read this piece before, I highly recommend it.

(via thebicker)

(via fuckyeahfeminists)

Recently I joined Women in STEM, a group of women researchers committed to addressing gender inequality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Earlier today Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I co-hosted the first of our new fortnightly interview series. We’ll be talking with STEM professionals who want to advance gender diversity in the sciences. 

Today’s chat was with Professor Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist and editor-in-chief of the open-access journal PLoS Biology. Jonathan was a fantastic guest who spoke candidly about the need for male academics to be more proactive in addressing inequality. He gave some practical examples of how women’s participation in science can be bolstered by simple measures, such as by: offering childcare as part of academic conference services; through diversity training for hiring panels; and providing better mentorship for young women in science. 

I gave a shout out to sociology during the Hangout. I noted that while sociologists still face career barriers regarding race, gender, sexuality and other minority relations, we have a shared language to discuss inequality. Sociology is centrally concerned with addressing disadvantage, so we have the vocabulary and training to start conversations about these issues. Most other disciplines don’t talk about inequality at all. This means that women are expected to suffer in silence and navigate career barriers alone. As Buddhini points out, academia represents a “leaky pipe” where the further up you go in an academic faculty, the less women and minorities there are.

Gender and diversity matters should be central to all academic training, at every level, and for all disciplines.

There is a plethora of studies showing inequality is a fact in science. STEM Women starts off from this position and so we ask: what are going to do to move forward and address this disadvantage? 

Join us on Google+ or Twitter and check out our website.