Being female in physics is ridiculous.

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  • #71
ZapperZ
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Do people actually agree with this or is this just your opinion? Maybe this is because I am from Canada and as a result of the political atmosphere in Canada, this is exactly what I hear people advocate. More than once, I've heard that the only difference between men and women are their genitals. I tell them that this isn't scientifically true and I get called sexist. Admittedly, it probably is my cognitive bias that makes me focus on the idiots.

I do not pay attention to talking heads and politicians. I pay attention to scholarly articles. So THOSE are what I refer to when I said that I have never heard or read any assertion that we have to have 1:1 male:female ratio on science. There's nothing to indicate that this is what the goal is. You are welcome to browse various journals and point out to me if this is false.

I have participated in many outreach programs, activities, and panel discussion on women in science. So I'm not just some Joe Schmoe off the street who simply has an uneducated opinion about this and decided to spew things off the top of my head.

Zz.
 
  • #72
ModusPwnd
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What ratio is the goal?

Or, what metric do we use to conclude we are "done" actively trying to allow or push women into science?

Certainly the ratio was the big thing that was always harped on to us when I was in school.
 
  • #73
ZapperZ
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What ratio is the goal?

I wouldn't know.

Or, what metric do we use to conclude we are "done" actively trying to allow or push women into science?

Certainly the ratio was the big thing that was always harped on to us when I was in school.

You were told that in school? Whatever for, and whatever could you have done?

In many studies, the performance of girls and boys in science are almost even, up to the beginning of college. this is not simply in the number of boys and girls in physics, but also in their ability to do physics. What most most who study this issue is concerned about is, what happened to cause a sharp drop-off by the end of the students' undergraduate years, and into graduate school, and why many women gave up their careers as physicists.

In other words, at least from my perspective, and from most of the effort that I've put into this, it is the issue of RETENTION. It is why I pointed out the issue of women having MORE pressures put on them in terms of leaving their families to be able to attend conferences, spend weeks at an experiment, etc.. etc. This is a HUGE issue in developing world where the role of women is still predominantly as the primary caregiver of the family. To me, if you cannot retain these girls that had originally selected to go into physics, then efforts to encourage more to study this field will be useless, because there's a good chance they'll leave the field before making it as a career.

Zz.
 
  • #74
ModusPwnd
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Yes, I was told that in both undergrad and grad school. I don't know what I could have done. That's why I said it was ridiculous and offensive in the second reply.

If retention is the issue, why does physics have a worse ratio than most other sciences? Most people, male or female, get pressured out of science at some point in their studies/career. The ratio of females to males not in or never in science is almost unity.

Beyond this, I'm not sure these women would in fact be better served if they did spend more time in the lab and less time with their family. To what end is having some unknown higher ratio of women in science a means? Is it for the benefit of them, is it for the benefit of society or is it simply an end unto itself?

I suppose the flip side could also be true. Many men could benefit from not having pressure to have a high flying career and would be better served interacting with their family than working on a career.
 
  • #75
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If retention is the issue, why does physics have a worse ratio than most other sciences? Most people, male or female, get pressured out of science at some point in their studies/career. The ratio of females to males not in or never in science is almost unity.

But this is what people are trying to find out. There have been a few studies on this, trying to figure out at what point women abandon this field. From what I have read, it happens at different times and different stages. Why this is more severe in physics is what we are still trying to figure out. There are no easy answers, and I suspect, there aren't going to be any easy solutions either.

Beyond this, I'm not sure these women would in fact be better served if they did spend more time in the lab and less time with their family. To what end is having some unknown higher ratio of women in science a means? Is it for the benefit of them, is it for the benefit of society or is it simply an end unto itself?

It's a matter of opportunity and letting someone fulfill his/her potential. If someone decides that something isn't for them, then that's fine. However, if someone abandons something RELUCTANTLY, due to external pressures, then we need to figure out what they are, and whether something could be done. This is what most studies are trying to discover. Is there something INHERENT in the system that discourages, even unintentionally, women from continuing in physics?

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/article/65/2/10.1063/PT.3.1439 [Broken]

We simply can't just wash our hands in face of such staggering statistics on something like this. And I'm not one who will back anything and everything that seem to show an apparent disparity in the number of women versus men in physics (read my blog entry that I highlighted earlier). The responsible thing is to figure out if there is something we can do to change this, to retain a larger number of female students who had already shown interest in pursuing a career in physics.

Zz.
 
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  • #76
ModusPwnd
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The responsible thing is to figure out if there is something we can do to change this, to retain a larger number of female students who had already shown interest in pursuing a career in physics.

This presumes that the answer to your preceding paragraph is already known and the verdict is guilty. If this were true, I would be onboard with your quote. But I dont see it as true. At the risk of being some "Joe Schmoe off the street who simply has an uneducated opinion about this and decided to spew things off the top of my head", I see women and men turn away from science to their own benefit. Science is a career oriented profession and that is not fulfilling to them and they are doing great after leaving. I dont think there is anything wrong with women being more family oriented than men. I dont think there is anything wrong with that if its biological, sociological or a combination of the both. Honestly, I'm a little jealous of that now that I am nearing middle age. I probably could have enjoyed fostering and being with family instead of shooting for a career.

I think the women often have the right idea. Family can easily be more important than a career.


edit - I like your thoughts though, and appreciate them. They are better than the knee jerk guilt that I encountered so often in school.
 
  • #77
ZapperZ
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This presumes that the answer to your preceding paragraph is already known and the verdict is guilty. If this were true, I would be onboard with your quote. But I dont see it as true. At the risk of being some "Joe Schmoe off the street who simply has an uneducated opinion about this and decided to spew things off the top of my head", I see women and men turn away from science to their own benefit. Science is a career oriented profession and that is not fulfilling to them and they are doing great after leaving. I dont think there is anything wrong with women being more family oriented than men. I dont think there is anything wrong with that if its biological, sociological or a combination of the both. Honestly, I'm a little jealous of that now that I am nearing middle age. I probably could have enjoyed fostering and being with family instead of shooting for a career.

I think the women often have the right idea. Family can easily be more important than a career.

But this is not what I'm talking about. Read again what I've written so far. If someone decides that a career in physics isnt' for them, then this is NOT an issue, and this isn't what I'm concerned about.

However, there is a severe imbalance between women doing other sciences versus those in the physical science/engineering. Now you may argue that there's nothing "unusual" about this, but using your quote, this presumes that there isn't an inherent obstacle in the first place.

I will put it to you that there ARE indications that there are obstacles. While the evidence needs to be made more convincing, it is leaning more towards there having some issues with how the system is run. This is what many are trying to figure out. I still don't know if various researchers who study these problems have actually clarify enough to my satisfaction, but unlike you, I am seeing emerging evidence that the system may unintentionally discourages girls from not only continuing, but pursuing a career in physics.

This is different than changing one's mind and deciding to jump ship!

Zz.
 
  • #78
Chronos
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My earlier point is women are not inclined to take risks - which is vital in a highly competitive academic environment, like science. You are at a competitive disadvantage if perceived as risk aversive in most any career path. The history of science teaches us it does not belong to the timid. Academia demands people who are not fearful of making mistakes. It only objects to those who refuse to learn from them. The list of world class physicists who have blundered at some point in their career is endless. The list of those who never dared make a mistake - nonexistent.
 
  • #79
jesse73
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What ratio is the goal?

Or, what metric do we use to conclude we are "done" actively trying to allow or push women into science?

Certainly the ratio was the big thing that was always harped on to us when I was in school.

At least a not having a wage and employment gap for physics majors of both genders with same experience.
 
  • #80
sourlemon
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To diverge from the current discussion and answer samnorris question:

After applying for several REUs, the forums here seem to indicate that a lot of the spaces are reserved for women and minorities.
I don't know what to say about this. I tend to advocate and support programs that help people in financial hardship rather than base on gender.

My freshman year, I was first author on a paper that I was definitely not the driving force behind, because being able to list that a girl did that on an NSF proposal makes it more likely that my research group will get funding.
Wow, I feel bad for one who was driving this.

Two years ago, my university hired an incompetent female for a physics professor for the sake of diversit.This nonsense is ridiculous.
I agree with you that your university is taking this too far. If the reason they hire a female professor is to add diversity, that's just wrong. It is not fair for the other qualified applicant. It is harmful to the department and the students. Most of these students paid to be there. They shouldn't have to deal with bad teachers. The argument could be that they didn't know she was bad and they did fire her so at least that's a step forward.

Do you think it's best to mark "prefer not to respond" when applications ask for your gender, so that you are considered based on your ability? But then, you are probably less likely to get it, since you are probably not a minority. There really is no way to be fair.
I actually never thought about this. I would probably answer "prefer not to respond" because I want to be judge based on my work, not what gender or race I am.

I definitely don't have the answer on how to encourage more people to go into STEM fields. If someone does, please let me know.
I think it is important to have different ideas and opinions. I grew a lot last year because I had a mentor who is very different than me. That is not to say I will favor the minority or lower the standard for them. I think that would be an insult to them. Instead, I would probably do more outreach to schools with those minorities. I would encourage and provide support for them.
 
  • #81
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Interestingly, that article points out that the alleged tendency for women to not take risks is not biological, but a product of nurture.
Yes the article does say that, but how do they know that this is the case? The "proof" offered in the cited article is a straw person argument. They cited an article that debunks the claim that all women are risk averse. That's not the issue. The issue is whether there is a gender-based difference with regard to those who aren't risk averse. Most people, men and women, are risk averse. There aren't that many who are willing to risk half their life savings on some risky venture that might result in a big payoff but also might result in losing everything.

Separating nature from nurture is not a simple task in general. It's even harder when looking at the long tails of some weirdly shaped probability distribution curve. Successful business leaders, physicists, and engineers don't come from anywhere near the peak of the distribution curve. They come from the long tails.

The topic at hand is how much of the underrepresentation of females in the hard sciences and physics-based engineering is attributable to gender bias, how much represents a self-perpetuating status quo that isn't quite as ugly as gender bias but nonetheless should be addressed, how much reflects some self-selected difference between the genders, and how much, if any, reflects an innate difference between the genders. The latter two categories apparently are off-limits as explanations for this underrepresentation.
 
  • #82
Pythagorean
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[...] straw person argument.

:tongue:

I don't disagree. My thoughts when I first heard women are risk adverse was actually biologically/evolutionary motivated. Women can only produce offspring once a year or so, they carry the prenatal offspring with them for a long time, take care of the vulnerable baby for a long time.... it wouldn't be surprising if they weren't into taking risks as readily as males. But that was just my knee-jerk speculation.
 
  • #83
mheslep
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The woman's performance will quickly confirm if it was merit based.
Both performance *and* reputation matter.
 
  • #84
Evo
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Both performance *and* reputation matter.
What do you mean by "reputation" in this scenario? "The woman's "reputation" will quickly confirm if it (award) was merit based." ?
 
  • #85
jesse73
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My earlier point is women are not inclined to take risks - which is vital in a highly competitive academic environment, like science. You are at a competitive disadvantage if perceived as risk aversive in most any career path. The history of science teaches us it does not belong to the timid. Academia demands people who are not fearful of making mistakes. It only objects to those who refuse to learn from them. The list of world class physicists who have blundered at some point in their career is endless. The list of those who never dared make a mistake - nonexistent.

The links in the article you posted go against this notion. The second link basically says that women are as inclined to take risks as men when you account for the degree of leverage (women have less wealth therefore like any person with less wealth (male or female) they are less likely to gamble it all).
 
  • #86
mheslep
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What do you mean by "reputation" in this scenario? "The woman's "reputation" will quickly confirm if it (award) was merit based." ?
That which is suggested by the OP: that because she is a woman in this field she will be perceived as unqualified due to the "ridiculous" (her term) preferences given to women regardless of merit.
 
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