Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Women in Science News Roundup: Asia Edition 08-22-07

Here's the recent news (in English) about women in science and engineering in Asia. I rarely have come across articles about women scientists in East Asia, so it was interesting to find a couple from China and Korea.

The Times of India reports on a recent Bombay high court ruling that allows women's colleges are allowed to recruit only female staff.

Vice-principal of Nirmala Niketan College Farida Lambay said there are two sides to the argument. "Positive discrimination in favour of women helps them get jobs and empowers them,"" said Lambay. "But in a modern society, we have to debate if this kind of segregation is good.” WES runs two colleges in Nagpur, Lady Amritabai Daga College of Arts, Commerce and Science for Women and Smt Ratnidevi Purohit College of Home Science and Home Science Technology with 4,500 students. Initially the college would appoint male teachers, but over the last decade, it has not recruited a single male teacher.

According to authorities, the university nominees of the selection committee always preferred a male candidate saying they were better suited to the posts.
The attorney arguing against the all-women policy indicated that "state's rules provide for only 30% reservation in educational institutions." I am not familiar with Indian law (a massive understatement), but it sounds like normally 30% of jobs at "educational institutions" are set aside for women. I wonder if that is true at all levels of employment, or if women make up the
bulk of the clerical and support staff.

China Daily reports on a recent international seminar on women in science held in Beijing. Unfortunately, it's pretty brief. Here are the highlights:
  • "one third of Chinese scientists are women"
  • "the proportion of women technicians and engineers are significantly low in the engineering field," said Shi Liying, deputy secretary-general of the CAE [Chinese Academy of Engineering].
  • the China Association for Women Scientists was officially established during the meeting.
There was no breakdown of the statistics by discipline or by position.

The Korea Times reports that Ewha Womans University is going to offer "women-friendly" science programs.
Ewha is now in the process of developing an eight-year doctorate course in science and engineering. "Most women are compelled to stop their studies due to the constraints of marriage and childcare,'' Lee said.

The course, which is shorter than the general 10-year doctorate course, will encourage female scientists and engineers to become more highly educated.
It's not clear whether the new course compresses the usual course and laboratory work into a shorter time, or whether the women's course will be different from what men take. I think the latter would be a mistake, since women might then be seen as having taken an easier, less rigorous path. It's also not clear whether women who would otherwise have been "compelled to stop their studies" because of family obligations would be able to pursue careers in their chosen fields instead. If you know more about the Korean education system, please leave a comment!

Finally, the Malaysia Star Online reports on the "Expanding Your Horizons" Conference at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, which brought 250 girls from mainly rural areas to learn about science.

A group of secondary school students was thrilled as they learned about molecular genetics and what DNA was for the first time from a facilitator in a laboratory.

Another group paid rapt attention as a facilitator showed how to explore mathematics concepts and use mathematics to solve problems. A third group listened to another facilitator on how wastewater was treated and what students could do to keep water clean.

In the photos that accompany the article, the girls appear to be pretty serious. It's too bad none of them were interviewed about their experience.

The Expanding Your Horizons network also sponsors conferences to expose girls to math and science across the United States.

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