Monday, April 28, 2008

Gender Discrimination (GD) Discussion Continued

Anon 9:51,

I don't think any of that is the problem here.

If anything, I've been told that when I highlight my achievements it's perceived as 'arrogant', not 'impressive' so it's a very fine line to walk.

And if anything, the male professors are much more fixated on formatting than the women professors I've had look at my CV.

And in my field, there is absolutely no such thing as 'positive discrimination.' I strongly suspect that Fermilab is more like my field than it is like yours.

Again, I need to read the paper.


I am not a statistician, so in a way it won't matter what I say about the paper. So maybe I should just refrain from addressing it.

I think DrugMonkey picked up on my main point re: your post.

The point was that conference presentations, while perhaps not well supported by the data in the Towers' manuscript, are in fact quite likely playing a role. And that this issue is definitely deserving of further study if, as you say, you would only be convinced by more numbers. FSP and I have both blogged repeatedly about the dearth of women conference speakers. It's not like it's a hard phenomenon to witness.

Beyond that, what I'm saying is, this is an issue I care about deeply because I have firsthand experience with it. I've read some of the Absinthe blog so I know some of the story without needing to read the paper.

I think you should consider how you write about these topics, since you sounded doubtful of the existence of GD because of the way you criticized the arguments in the paper.

You actually sounded like this is the first you've really heard of it, and even worse, as if this is the only evidence or report on it. Perhaps none of that is what you intended but that's how your post reads, aside from one or two comments that seem painfully PC. I don't really care if you don't doubt that it "could" be occurring. What I'm saying is that IT IS. But you think that's some kinda religion-speak.

I don't think it's fair to say it's religion just because there aren't sufficient numbers.

The whole point of lack of representation is that there weren't many women to begin with, so how could she have large numbers of data points. HOW.

You're like those reviewers who say "this could be better" but don't actually have any ideas for experiments. What's the experiment? Ruin more female postdocs' careers and then see how they like it? I mean, seriously.

And in a way I'm saying that the point is it doesn't matter how many. That even one example is horrifying and needs to be brought to the light of day.

The allegation that it was systematic is not surprising to most of us. We're also not surprised that the documentation is somewhat spotty.

What's surprising is that it could be documented at all.

But perhaps she went about it the wrong way, trying to quantify it at all?

GD is anecdotal by its very nature. Ever hear of little fields of study like
Cultural Anthropology?

Do you know how Cultural Anthropology works? They interview people and watch them work, play, live. Do you know how they document their observations? By writing down stories describing what happened.

Written observations in a narrative form.

It's much like a blog, in a way, if you assume that most bloggers aren't lying about what they're describing.

Or a Supreme Court decision. Or the notes taken by a clinical psychologist.

Many important things go on in the world, and believe it or not, they can be described accurately and completely without numbers.

To me, description is important and still a form of science, even if it's not as quantitative as you would like.

Still, I think the arguments about lack of numbers belie a certain naivete about how insidious these things are. Here are a couple more things for you to mull over.

1. Nobody likes backlash. So most women don't complain about GD. They just leave. That's going to limit your numbers right there.

2. Settlements include gag orders.Yep, that's right. Most of the time when someone complains about GD (or medical malpractice for that matter), the solution is to settle and that usually includes a promise not to ever mention it again. That's going to limit your pool of witnesses, too.

Again, I didn't read the paper so I don't know if these issues are mentioned in the article. But it's a negative result- unless she knew these women before they left, why they left and where they went, she can't track them down and find out if there were, perhaps, more cases than the 9 she reported.

But let's go back even further. Lots of the women who would have worked at Fermilab probably never got there. They probably quit science back when they were discriminated against in math class. There's lots of numbers on that, too. Maybe you should go look those up and think about whether that's not also a form of institutional GD.

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At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why won't you just read the paper?

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

off topic: is there any way you can change the layout on your blog? it's a little weird to read it in a columnar format, with only 1 column. in other words, is there a way to make the page wider? if not, never mind...

At 5:36 AM, Blogger tnk0001 said...

I think this is an important topic to be discussed. I have changed fields 3 times, the first change being directly related to gender discrimination. Now that I'm older perhaps I would be able to take what was being dished out at me and fight harder for inclusion, but I still shouldn't have had to. The field I am in now is largely made up of female grad students and instructors, but the majority of professors (different classification here in Germany than in the US) are male. Therefore, most of the conference speakers are male. Out of 40 some odd invited speakers we have departmentally each year, I'd say 2 maybe 3 are women. In my first field (back in the US), I didn't have a single female professor, nor did I ever see one speak on the subject.

The problem really is, what to do about it. Mentioning it has never brought good things for me personally. There is backlash and name calling from people who are supposed to be mature professionals. Sometimes you just hope if you act like it's not there it'll go away, unfortunately the head in the sand method doesn't work.

So yeah, thanks for carrying on this discussion.

At 6:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you point out the limited number of women who gave conference talks, I think you're missing okram's point: according to Towers, for men, conference talks do not = job hunt success.

As I thought you alluded to in an earlier post, this basically implies that "good" people with "good" data can give "good" or bad talks, but in the end, its the quality (or quantity) of their data/publications that determines if they will be successful in getting a job. Probably some minimum number of talks is necessary to "put you out there", if you will, but after that it doesn't really matter.

As for resume formatting, everyone has their own style. Personally, the only real "off" thing I do is bold my name in all of my papers, cause I think that looks good. Maybe it's arrogant, but it works for me.

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here’s an example…..Hide and seek: find a woman in these recent conference listings from EvolDir! Try not to strain yourself. I just picked listed conferences from different countries – no names were removed, they were just copied and pasted.
Gender discrimination (to me, a woman in science) is first about having a seat at the table and then the next step is to get out of the nose-bleed section onto the main floor, and then finally have a microphone on the stage. It is unfair, frustrating, and sad.
Thank you YFS for being a voice.

Conference 1: Toronto, Canada
Keynote speakers:
Daniel H. Janzen
Scott E. Miller
Spencer Barrett
Brian Golding
Paul Hebert
Donal Hickey
Gary Saunders

Conference 2: Amsterdam, Netherlands
10:30 Welcome by Nico M. van Straalen (president of the Royal Dutch Zoological Society)
10:35 Introduction by Nico K. Michiels (University Tuebingen, Germany)
10:45 Göran Arnqvist (University of Uppsala, Sweden) - Sexual conflict - an evolving view of interactions between the sexes
11:30 Ken Kraaijeveld (Leiden University, The Netherlands) - Male genes with nowhere to hide; sexual conflict in haplodiploids
13:30 David J. Hosken (University of Exeter, United Kingdom) - Sexual selection and sexual conflict in flies
14:15 Aaron Goetz (California State University, Fullerton, USA) -
Sexual conflict in humans: Evolutionary consequences of female infidelity
15:30 Dutch Zoology Prize 2008: Laudatio by Gert Flik (chair of the jury), presentation of award by Nico M. van Straalen
15:45 Joris M. Koene (VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands) - Sex and conflict in hermaphrodites: stabbing, piercing and allohormones

Conference 3: Atlanta USA
Confirmed Speakers:
Leonard Anderson, Morehouse School of Medicine
David Bader, Georgia Institute of Technology
Kim Baldridge, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
Gang Bao, Georgia Institute of Technology
Upinder Bhalla, Nat’l Centre for Biol. Sciences, India
Charles Boone, University of Toronto
Richard Caprioli, Vanderbilt University
Jennifer van Eyk, Johns Hopkins University
Mark Hay, Georgia Institute of Technology
Sorin Istrail, Brown University
Minoru Kanehisa, Kyoto University, Japan
Peter Karp, SRI International
Jay Keasling, University of California at Berkeley
Douglas Lauffenburger, MIT
Richard E. Lenski, Michigan State University
Frank LÃffler, Georgia Institute of Technology
Victor de Lorenzo, Nat’l Centre of Biotechnology, Spain
Maryann Martone, University of California San Diego
John McDonald, Georgia Institute of Technology
Alfred Merrill, Georgia Institute of Technology
Hirotada Mori, Keio University, Japan
Garry Nolan, Stanford University
Ajay Royyuru, Thomas J. Watson Research Center
Helena Santos, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal
Michael Savageau, University of California at Davis
Klaus Schulten, University of Illinois
Pamela Silver, Harvard Medical School
Jeffrey Skolnick, Georgia Institute of Technology
Masaru Tomita, Keio University, Japan
Elizabeth Wellington, University of Warwick, U.K.
Raimond Winslow, Johns Hopkins University

Conference 4: Manchester UK
The following speakers are confirmed:
Prof. J. Antonovics (The University of Virginia)
Prof. A. Gatehouse (Newcastle University)
Prof. P. Grime (The University of Sheffield)
Dr. G. Iason (The Macaulay Institute)
S. Zytynska (The University of Manchester)
Dr. J. Ferrari (The University of Oxford)
Dr. R. Preziosi (The University of Manchester)
Dr. D. Shuker (The University of Edinburgh)
Dr. F. Vavre (Université de Lyon)
Dr. J. Wolf (The University of Manchester)

Conference 5: Rennes France
Dr. Eric Wajnberg
Pr. Thomas S. Hoffmeister
Pr.Jean-Sebastien Pierre
Dr Ian C.W. Hardy
Pr.Jérôme Casas
Dr.Yannick Outreman
Pr.Hans Metz
Dr.Ulf Dieckman
Joachim Hermisson
Pr.Olof Leimar
Dr.Minus van Baalen
Fréderic Hamelin
Dr.Patsy Haccou
Dr.Martijn Egas
Dr. Carlos Bernstein, DR-CNRS
Dr.Tom van Dooren
Dr.Manu Plantegenest
Dr. Perrine Pelosse
Dr.Äke Brännström
Dr. Claus Rueffler
Dr.Daniel Rankin
Dr. Fréderic Hamelin

At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

institutional GD 'Freudian slip' of the week.

Male colleague, after observing a female colleague's (lack of) integration/acceptance over a few months:

'Yes, I can see how difficult it could be for a woman to be a friend of a scientist'.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 8:22,

Because I'm busy
a) answering comments
b) working

Anon 9:27,

That has always bothered me, too. I'm not sure how to do it- not an hmtl whiz plus I'm using a template. Haven't had time (in other words, not a priority) to figure out how to fix it.


Yes. You can see the backlash here already.

Anon 6:51,

You apparently missed my previous post, or choose to ignore it.

"Hypothesis: Face time is more important for women than it is for men. "

My point is that you CAN'T compare men vs. women. It's NOT the same.

Anon 8:01,

I see (just glancing here, I have work to do!)

0 women in conference 1.
0 women in conference 2.
6 women in conference 3.
can't tell in conference 4 (either very egalitarian or very clever)
maybe 1-3 women in conference 5? not sure about some ofthesenames, I'm guessing Patsy is a woman but don't know about Perrine or Ake?

Anon 8:07,

That's a good one.

At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from Anon 8:01

There's 9 women of 78 speakers.

Conference 3: Atlanta USA = 6 women
Conference 4: Manchester UK = 1 woman
Conference 5: Rennes France = 2 women

And yes, conference talks (particularly invited talks) do contribute to hiring, tenure, even department productivity measures directly and indirectly. Some talks lead to published proceedings (albeit low or no "impact") but it's still exposure and it's coupled with the talk "face time" and recognition. That doesn't mean it leads to collaboration or job offers but invited talks do give women a chance to shine. I'm glad there are men out there who "get it" (I know a few) - I just wish they were in the majority and actively doing something about it rather than throwing up their hands like many women do during frustrating times. Keep your heads up!

At 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: Conferences.
And how many of those speakers are under 30? Under 35? Under 40?

My guess is most of them are established folks with average age of about 60. They got PhDs 30+ years ago.

What was the female/male ratio of PhDs in their fields back then?

Unfortunately, there are very few prominent senior women scientists, and most of them are doing administration stuff (diversity and such) and don't do science anymore. There's very little anyone can do about that now - short of inventing a time machine.

So while you certainly have a point, your point seems to be more along the lines of: "Look at how few women have been choosing science as their career back in the 1960ies or 1970ies", rather than "Look how selectively sexist the community is in 2008".

Not that I disagree with the latter, but the selective evidence you bring up is in support of the former.

You could choose to rail against age-ism at conferences, but there may be a point as to why senior Prof. Nobel who happens to be a big name in the field and decades of experience is giving more of these talks than 27 year old joe schmoe or jane schmane with a total of 2 publications under their belt.

It's like complaining that CEO of Apple or IBM makes more money than out-of-school graduate - such is life.

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daniel H. Janzen PhD 1965
Scott E. Miller PhD 1975 (?)
Spencer Barrett PhD 1977
Brian Golding PhD (1982?) Born 1953
Paul Hebert PhD 1972
Donal Hickey PhD (?) Looks 60 or so
Gary Saunders ?

Majority seem to be 60+ years old. You could make an argument for age-ism, with gender selection being appropriate for the number of senior female scientists who got PhDs in 1970ies.

At 11:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry, YFS, I am not impressed.
You initially claimed to be responding to my post, but yours is no response. You just stepped on a soapbox and started preaching. You wrote two kilometric posts, and I swear, I am still trying to understand what in the world they have to do with my post or Towers' paper.

Sherry Towers (you know, the author of the paper that you won't read), who, believe me, feels at least as strongly as you do about this subject, nonetheless has felt that it should be investigated quantitatively. This is why she has spent an ungodly amount of time putting data together, analyzing them and thinking about them. It's because, I submit, she feels that simply shouting "I KNOW IT IS SO" does not quite cut it.
This is why, even though I disagree with her, I have nothing but respect for her. She, in turn, has appreciated the fact that I have read her paper, as well as the input that I provided (while obviously disagreeing with me as well).

Meanwhile, you have done nothing but lecturing me (with quite an arrogant tone, I may add) on all sort of stuff that is irrelevant to the subject of Towers' paper or my post (which by the way, I don't think you have read either); you attribute to me statements that I never made, you call me a sexist, while downright refusing to respond to my post, i.e., stating where, why and how my analysis of Towers' data is flawed.

I am familiar with the whole notion of 9 being less than 48, you know ? I know that there are fewer women in physics than men; I say that much in my post, and I unambiguously attribute that to discrimination (I do not say that it "could" be that -- it's the second time you deliberately misquote me, YFS). But the thing is, that is not the point of Towers' paper, as several other commentators have told you as well.

The issue is not whether there is GD or not; it's whether the statistical analysis of Towers shows that clearly. If I express my doubts about the connection between invited talks and jobs, is because Towers' own numbers show that it is very weak, not because I just want to say NO.
If you wish to say something useful about that, you've got to read the paper. Expressing your outrage at me because I dared do it, is not what a person who claims to be a "scientist", to whom "nothing is sacred" does.
Are you sure you won't read the paper because you don't have time ? Or, is it because you are afraid of finding out that the simple answer that you have for just about everything may not quite work as well as you thought ? That reality may be just a tad more complicated ?


Massimo Boninsegni "OKham"
(I am one of those who sign their names)

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is indefensible for you to have not read the paper. I mean, here is someone, a woman no less, who has used one of the most complete data sets that exists (probably) to try to _quantify_ something that you say is very important (not just in general, but to you). And you can't take the time to read the paper. That is very insulting to the author (a woman no less).

And then you have someone commenting (OKham - a hog farmer from Oklahoma who cut himself shaving?) - who knows a thing or two about statistics, I guess. And he (from my limited understanding of statistics) is actually trying to determine whether he believes the results and interpretation of the author's analysis.

Isn't that the scientific method? State hypothesis, collect observations, compare data to hypothesis, rinse, repeat? And then you claim that this issue is more in the realm of sociology and anthropology than science? C'mon.

If you were an anthropologist we wouldn't be reading your blog; anthropologists would be reading instead. I submit that the majority of your readers are scientists and we use the tools we are familiar with to determine whether we believe that data support or refute a hypothesis.

Switching horses in midstream is patent misdirection and you are better than that.

Furthermore, I hate it when people cite articles they haven't read. I'm big on actually _understanding_ what you're talking about, not just saying words because they sound right.


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