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Women in Physics: a large study

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Women in Physics: a large study

Postby rowan » Mon Feb 20, 21:17 2012

As we all know, I'm very interested in the extremely bad statistics when it comes to women in science. Physics Today has an article that involved surveys of both men and women in physics, asking them questions about the resources they have and how family has impacted their career. They had ~15,000 responses, 22% of which were women (far higher than the 12% women in the field - you might think this is important to us). Unsurprisingly, women do worse in nearly every category. (If you want the numbers, scroll down to the tables at the bottom) Even my non-major intro astronomy students have noticed the graph outside the classroom that shows how few women are in the field. It's that bad.

The focus of the specific article is about the impact of family. Now, a lot of women physicists that I know put aside family. But, any environment that says you have to do that to succeed will necessarily keep the number of women low, simply for the cross-cultural expectations that women will be primary caregivers. Indeed, this is what the survey (and other surveys) show.

It is fairly disheartening that the comments on the article read like a lot of the MRA trolls we get around here; these are colleagues of mine (though I don't know them personally) and it shows very much that the attitudes in the field are as toxic as ever (note: I do not have only those comments as a source; the fact that the American Physics Society finds toxic environments pretty much everywhere and has a specific task force to attempt to address things peaks volumes). One might think "oh it's a generational thing" but frankly, I have heard people in my generation and younger who still cling to the idea that a woman physicist's work isn't the equal of her male peers.

Family issues are part of it; this article discusses that. It doesn't offer any solutions, but does provide one thing we can be working on. However, I don't think anything will change, unless we can forcibly effect a culture shift within physics.

And that makes me sad.
(and tired. so very, very tired of fighting.)

Here's the article:
http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/1/ ... ypassSSO=1
Global warming is intricately tied to the decline in the pirate population. As the pirate population goes down, the average global temperature goes up. Ergo, pirates are cool, and we need more pirates. :pirate: ARRR!
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby Sonic# » Mon Feb 20, 22:09 2012

Wow, those commentators are charmers. "Why don't you talk about the men in health studies?" "Statistics is pseudoscience!" (These are dramatic paraphrases, but *really*?)

It frustrates me that scholars, who should ostensibly value evidence-based argumentation, read an article with plenty of evidence about how women get the short end of the stick, only to give a knee-jerk response that either rejects the study outright or quibbles with details or refutes it on the basis of something for which the article took account. Disregard is bad from everyone, but it always stings especially much when someone in the academy does it.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby rowan » Mon Feb 20, 22:19 2012

Sonic# wrote:Wow, those commentators are charmers. "Why don't you talk about the men in health studies?"

yeah this one was kind of weird. It's a physics magazine put out by a physics society talking about women in physics. why the heck would we be talking about things like veterinarians or health studies?

Maybe they *are* MRA trolls...
(comments are apparently also moderated: who let these through?)
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby monk » Mon Feb 20, 22:41 2012

As I've mentioned before, we need to change the culture, and it doesn't have to be changed to be more favorable to women per se, but changed to make our work environments less hostile to our children. So many of the problems women face are related to the fact that they are still seen as primary caregivers and if our work environments welcomed children vs. seeing them as an obstacle some employees have to deal with a significant number of womens issues would resolve themselves.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby spacefem » Tue Feb 21, 7:18 2012

I need to read through this carefully, but where I work the biggest crap I've always seen comes from the double standards. I literally worked in a situation where:

- a woman had started her career at 27 or so, because she had babies young and was late starting her degree.
- a man started his career at 27 or so, because he didn't feel like going to college and worked construction a few years before realizing it didn't pay so great.

Everybody was always just glowing over construction guy because he had "life experience" before he came to work, so much better than those "kids out of college". But the woman? People just speculated about the penalties of taking time off for your small children, talked about what a shame it was that she was so "held back", and held her up as the "see this is why women don't get promoted, they don't work as many years as men!"

big huge flaming can of bullshit if you ask me. In an industry where there are millionaire entrepreneurs under 30, you cannot tell me that women are held back because they take a year or two off. There are PLENTY of years between age 22 and 65 to do something promotion-worthy in STEM fields.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby rowan » Tue Feb 21, 10:45 2012

Ugh that's totally a double standard. As if raising kids isn't life experience!
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby zibber » Tue Feb 21, 11:04 2012

I know never to read comments. So why do I always do it?!

"I smell feminism". What, is feminism the new communism? You only have to name it, and that's some kind of grave condemnation?
Lavatories. Love them or loathe them, they're here to stay.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby spacefem » Wed Feb 22, 20:47 2012

zibber wrote:"I smell feminism". What, is feminism the new communism? You only have to name it, and that's some kind of grave condemnation?


honestly, kinda. I was in a presentation by a woman's group once where they were like, "Women's networks are important, supporting women is important. Sometimes women are afraid of being called bitches or feminists but that's not what it's about." And I was like, "uh, those aren't really synonyms..."

Anyway, I don't know what feminism smells like but I bet it's wonderful.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby monk » Wed Feb 22, 21:03 2012

Feminism is an acquired taste,the problem is that once you acquire it, most of the world tastes like crap.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby edit the sad parts » Thu Feb 23, 20:09 2012

monk wrote:Feminism is an acquired taste,the problem is that once you acquire it, most of the world tastes like crap.


Brilliant.
What was once before you - an exciting, mysterious future - is now behind you. Lived; understood; disappointing. You realize you are not special. You have struggled into existence, and are now slipping silently out of it. This is everyone's experience. Every single one. The specifics hardly matter. Everyone's everyone.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby Aum » Sat Feb 25, 0:26 2012

I worked in the corporate insurance world and it's completely male dominated on the management level, with the same sorts of double-standards people are talking about in this thread. Even at entry level, people treated me more respectfully than my female peers. It was always awkward. I was given more responsibilities sooner than others who had been there for years and wanted to move up. I can't say it's all because of being a man, I am smart too! But the gender bias was obvious. People even resented me for it.

The quota-driven departments in that company were staffed by mostly women, and the supervisors tended to be men more often. The corporate executives were exclusivey men, that's for sure. The best asset to becoming management, of course, is being born into money. But after that, being male, white, and well-schooled in old man haggery tend to be the best assets. I was actually invited to golf once, but didn't go due to my boredom metre almost breaking at the thought of it.

I also sometimes wonder... if a company is more female dominated, could males me favoured more just for being more rare? People spend all day in those places and having not enough male energy or female energy could make it really stale. But that can't be true... because women who are the minority in these office jobs seem to get the brush off.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby monk » Sat Feb 25, 1:49 2012

To me that golf thing you mention was the seal of approval. You go to golf and then next thing you know you're in a foursome with the guy you invited and a couple of the higher up executives. You don't do anything stupid and when the next big promotion comes up, someone suggests you apply and bam! you get promoted to the next level because you're in the boys club.

Guess what? None of the women EVER get invited to go golfing.

That's why quotas are necessary, to fight ingrained traditions of exclusion.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby Neko » Sat Feb 25, 7:23 2012

monk wrote:Guess what? None of the women EVER get invited to go golfing.

I can just hear it: "That's because women don't like golf. I know this is true because I said it is."
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby rowan » Sat Feb 25, 12:34 2012

Yeah cuz that's sooo obviously not true....

Aum wrote: if a company is more female dominated, could males me favoured more just for being more rare?

In K-12 education men tend to get promoted/chosen for positions of power such as principal, superintendent, and more over women who are equally qualified and apply. I took a (grad level) women in leadership courses form a prof who had studied that and some of her research was part of the class.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby Tookie » Sat Feb 25, 14:18 2012

^ It's the same deal in nursing and librarian positions. We called it "the glass escalator" in the sociology course I took on gender and work.
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Re: Women in Physics: a large study

Postby branchpattern » Sat Feb 25, 19:59 2012

Neko wrote:
monk wrote:Guess what? None of the women EVER get invited to go golfing.

I can just hear it: "That's because women don't like golf. I know this is true because I said it is."


Not to mention there couldn't possibly be anything that both women and men might like
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