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AWIS in Action! October 2012 - M3
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AWIS In Action!

 Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter   ~   October 2012
In This Issue
M3 The Maddening Monthly Mention
 
* Chicago Lab Rat *
 
Last week a professor from the University of Chicago, Dario Maestripieri, Ph.D., posted a comment on his Facebook page upon his return from the Society of Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans. "My impression of the Conference of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. There are thousands of people at the conference and an unusually high concentration of unattractive women. The super model types are completely absent. What is going on? Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? No offense to anyone..”
 
I realize most scientists attend conferences not to share their research, not to learn about new developments in their field, not to network with other colleagues and uncover potential employment opportunities; people go to scientific conferences to hook up with supermodels. Sounds legit. Talk nerdy to me, baby. We scientists look pretty fabulous by the fourth or fifth day of the conference, getting up way too early to go try to carry on intelligent conversations over our first cup of coffee before the day’s talks begin and staying out too late talking shop with other people who get fired up about the same things we do. So call me surprised that he didn’t see anything that he qualifies as supermodel material.
 
You can claim that his post is on his personal webpage, but it must have offended at least one of his "friends” that chose to share it. But the real problem gets at the core of our mission: changing the chilly climate of academics for women. It’s not always the blatant sexism, it’s the small little ways that people say your worth is less in science because you’re a woman, because your real function in academics is to be something pleasant and appealing for the men to look at. Does the fact that ALL of the members of his lab, his EMPLOYEES, are "friends” of his on Facebook trouble you at all? Does the fact that half of them are women make you wonder about the wisdom of sharing his dismay? Many of his other "friends” are University of Chicago affiliates and presumably colleagues. How would people respond if he’d complained about the number of women of color, or Jewish women there? Why is it more acceptable to complain about gender than race or religion?
 
Earlier this fall a study came out in PNAS looking at gender bias favoring male science students. Primary investigators were given applications which were identical except for the name of the applicant which was randomly assigned either a male or female name. The PI’s were asked to evaluate the candidate’s employability, competence, worthiness for mentoring, and what financial compensation would be offered. As first author Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, Ph.D., explained, "When presented with identical applicants who differed only by their gender, science faculty members evaluated the male student as superior, were more likely to hire him, paid him more money, and offered him more career mentoring.” And with the compensation different being nearly $4,000 less for a woman, here’s your wage gap, deniers.
 
Perhaps this is actually an experiment by Maestripieri. He studies evolutionary behavior and, were I to take some statements from his blog out of context and put them in this newsletter, you would find some real gems to get fired up about. I am not calling him a total misogynist; he obviously works with, hires, and publishes with women. He wrote a book recently and maybe the sales haven’t been as solid as he hoped and figured this would be a way to drum up interest. But, regardless of if he’s just an inconsiderate jerk or crazy like a fox, what I am saying is that these little biases, these little dings that make women feel like they aren’t viewed as having as much to offer besides their bodies, are constant and often ignored consciously, but one can’t help but internalize them. When people ask why women leave the STEM pipeline and why it’s so hard to find one solid fix, this story provides the perfect example. It is outrageous to think anyone would want to stay in a line of work where they don’t feel appreciated by more than 50% of their peers. 
 
 
In This Issue
 

 

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