Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Links

Lots of interesting blog posts and news I didn't get to blogging this week.

She's Such a Geek writes about an article by Rachel Maines in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Why Women Become Veterinarians But Not Engineers" (temporary link). Amazingly, in 2006 99% of Purdue veterinary medicine undergraduates are female. From the article:

No other profession in the United States has experienced as significant a gender shift as veterinary medicine has. The profession's transformation is not complete, of course. A significant earnings gap persists between men and women, which statistics from the veterinary-medicine association suggest is gradually being reduced as female practitioners gain more years of experience. And women in the field are more likely than men to work part time, which would explain some of the gap.
We still don't understand why women have come to dominate the field. It's not just that antidiscrimination legislation opened up the field, since there hasn't been a similar influx of women into engineering and the physical sciences. It may be that men are being driven away by the relatively low pay. Or, Maines asks, "Could the cause instead be that treating cats and dogs, now more common patients than in the past, is insufficiently macho?"
Science Daily reports on a study from the University of Chicago that suggests that the stereotype that girls are worse at math than boys creates anxiety that causes girls to perform poorly in other subjects too.

"This may mean that if a girl takes a verbal portion of a standardized test after taking the mathematics portion, she may not do as well on the verbal portion as she might do if she had not been recently struggling with math-related worries and anxiety," said Sian Beilock, Assistant Professor in Psychology and lead investigator in the study.

"Likewise, our work suggests that if a girl has a mathematics class first thing in the morning and experiences math-related worries in this class, these worries may carry implications for her performance in the class she attends next," she added.

The paper is Beilock S., Rydell R., & McConnell A.R. "Stereotype Threat and Working Memory: Mechanisms, Alleviation, and Spill Over," J. Exp. Psych: General, 136, 256-276 (2007).
Women in Tech News points out a study from the University of Michigan that women are happier if they wait until after the age of 25 to have kids. The study, lead by sociologist Amy Pienta (listen to podcast), indicates that adult relationships are the most important factor in a woman's happiness.
"Whether a woman has had children or not isn’t likely to affect her psychological well-being in later life," said University of Michigan sociologist Amy Pienta. "What is more important is whether or not she has a husband, a significant other or close social relationships in her life as she ages."
Inkling Magazine interviews neurobiologist Jill Bolte Taylor, who had a stroke at age 37 that eliminated her math and language skills. After eight years of therapy, which included the creation of stained-glass brains, she has almost fully recovered. She talks about her recovery in her new book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey.
Zuska asks whether Women's Studies programs are good for science, if they are taking away women would otherwise be studying engineering or science themselves. As she notes in the comments:
If women's studies stops at just critiquing science - if it cannot summon up interest for the conditions and concerns of actual women in science and engineering - then something has gone badly wrong. What use is all the high theory in the world, if we are still bleeding women at every level? How will our sophisticated visions for feminist transformations of science come into being if there aren't any feminists in science? I'm not saying every woman in science is a feminist, but damn, you're more likely to get some feminists in science if you work to increase the numbers of women in science.
Dr. Shellie found a great photo of physicist Elsa Garmire running a laser in the late 70s.
The Intel ISEF blog has some post-fair statistics, including that 236 of the 547 individual award winners were female. They also interview first time ISEF finalist Chang Liu about her research on hematopoetic stem cells.
The San Diego Business Journal interviews Julia Brown, "Biotech Pioneer, Angel Investor and Girl Scouts Honoree." Brown started her career as a microbiology researcher, but found her niche on the business side of biotech. She is currently advisor to Amylin’s chief executive officer, a Tech Coast Angel ("one of the few women in the exclusive, invite-only group that invests into local startups"), a member of the board of Trius Therapeutics and several other biotech companies, as well as the La Jolla Institute for Molecular Medicine, the Veterans Medical Research Foundation and the UC San Diego Foundation. When asked whether she had any advice for women, she responded:
“I don’t know that I would say anything different to women than men. All of us need to make sure to keep our skill sets current.”
The Daily Tarheel writes about a visit of a group of girls in the Durham County Women and Mathematics Mentoring Program to perform experiments on the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center's DESTINY bus.
"It's important for girls to do whatever they like, and this is the age when they decide what they like. Science can be intimidating, and it is good for them to see women in science and math," says Bell, a service processor test lead at IBM who has been involved with the program for two years.

"(TV) shows like CSI help to dispel the stereotype that science is a nerdy field. The girls see science in these shows and want to do what the scientists are doing."
Lab Cat reviews Meg Cabot's Size 12 is Not Fat and points out the unrealistic female scientist character.

Unfortunately a day after reading it, I got annoyed. There are some major flaws with the plot. (If you are likely to read the book, this will be a spoiler.) The biggest one of which is that the Hall Director, Heather's female boss, claims to be a graduate from a chemical engineering program. Which is totally unbelievable as I seriously doubt any chemical engineering major, male or female, would work in a dorm for about $25,000 a year despite free accommodation in the center of New York. Perhaps she hated ChemEng, but the salary disparity betweenwhat she is earning and what should could earn is too big.
Finally, David Ng at The World's Fair talks about Disney's High School Musical:
This Disney movie has the pitch: Troy, the popular captain of the basketball team, and Gabriella, the brainy and beautiful member of the academic club, break all the rules of East High society when they secretly audition for the leads in the school's musical. As they reach for the stars and follow their dreams, everyone learns about acceptance, teamwork, and being yourself. (from

In essense, the lead female character is into science, math and chemistry if I recall correctly - and yes, in the end, that's actually a good thing. That's not so bad for a movie that was seen by millions of people.

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