Archive for the 'Feminist Musings' category

MegaTrip In Progress

Nov 07 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

Last Friday I left my home at 7:30 am and arrived in a different time zone before noon. I am still at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges (#aamc11) having a great time. I went to a very interesting session on social media yesterday, and I will share my thoughts in a bit.

Wednesday I fly to Philadelphia (without an interval at home) for Kidney Week (#kidneywk11). More blog fodder will arise from that gathering.

Today I posted over on Academic Women for Equality Now about a Dutch study and the ability of gender bias reminders to elicit queen bee behavior. It's an interesting phenomenon for those of us XX types, and yet one more reason to try to get bias out of our institutions (like we needed another). Click on over and enjoy (or be dismayed) by this research.

Later, Whizbangers, I will post something here.

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Get Off of My Corporate Lawn!

Oct 24 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

The current Harvard Business Review includes a nice visualization of corporate board composition in the US, along with comparisons to stats from 1987. In general, boards have gotten smaller and older over the past 24 years:

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Yup, white men still rule.

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Tying Up Loose Ends

Oct 10 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

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Tomorrow I hit the road (more accurately the sky) for the second Vision2020 Congress in Chicago. Last year's event featured a lot of talk about the lack of women leaders in many areas of US life. This year promises more work. We delegates all started action projects in the past 12 months, and we will gather in groups to contemplate our own work and the national goals of the Congress:

  1. Achieve pay equity, so that equal pay for equal work will be the norm in America
  2. Increase the number of women in senior leadership positions in American life to reflect the workforce talent pool and demographics
  3. Educate employers about the value of policies and practices that enable men and women to share fairly their family responsibilities
  4. Educate new generations of girls and boys to respect their differences and to act on the belief that America is at its best when leadership is shared and opportunities are open to all
  5. Mobilize women in America to vote, with particular emphasis on a record-setting turnout in 2020, the centennial of the 19th Amendment

I will live-tweet the events of the Congress; follow @EqualityInSight, the official twitter account for the program for more accounts of the action.

Today I am tying up loose ends. I will get in a work-out before I pack. Most important, I will overnight all the signed and notarized forms for the sale of the old homestead. Yes, we will finally be down to a single house!

Enjoy your week, and please consider giving to my DonorsChoose page. It's heartbreaking that teachers must ask for our support for pencils, chairs, whiteboards, and other basics.

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What's Wrong?

Sep 30 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

What's Wrong?

Non Sequitur provides my daily laugh, along with those LOL cats. I found today's strip disturbing.

We must conclude that executive women qualify as ubermales or are nonexistent. Or their bathroom is far removed from the work area.

It's another one of those subtle cues that we don't belong.

I understand that a comic strip is a small box, and including a women's room may have been physically impossible (perhaps where the wall art hangs?). However, the fact that women executives are few and far enough between to make this scenario feasible is sad.

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"You Don't Belong"

The current issue of Nature Chemistry includes a commentary by Michelle Francl, Sex and the citadel of science. Click over and read it, if you can. Her thoughts on the lack of female achievement in science one hundred years after Marie Curie's second Nobel Prize provoked more thoughts on my part.

Click for source

Dr. Francl reviews her own story as well as the prevailing hypotheses to explain the lack of women scientists:

(1) the fraction of women who have the native intellectual capacity to do science, particularly at the highest levels, is much smaller than the fraction of men, (2) an inherent lack of interest among women in the hard sciences and engineering, and (3) societal and cultural biases that push women out of the pipeline and lead to the devaluation of the contributions of those who remain.

Data debunk the first two hypotheses, leaving us with societal and cultural biases that push women out of science. Of most interest to me were the discussions of architecture and color.

Built space is not neutral, as Winston Churchill noted, “we shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us”. As much as scientists use labs to create science, labs themselves create scientists.

Dr. Francl discusses the difficulties of being "vertically challenged," at least in comparison to the typical male scientist for whom lab benches, podiums, and even lecture hall chairs have been designed. As I sit in a standard office chair writing this with my feet on a riser and the chair in its lowest position, I understand her views. I am average height for a US woman; I have friends who must special order chairs! Consider how awkward things can be if a woman failes to wear a jacket with pockets for a seminar. She has no place to put the microphone power pack during her talk. As Dr. Francl points out:

Ginger Rogers may have had to do everything Fred Astaire did backwards and in high heels, but a female speaker who forgets to don something with pockets or lapels may find herself having to do what her male colleague does, but with both hands tied up.

Are any of these things game-ending? No, but each is a subtle reminder that we women "don't fit" the standard.

Color provides other cues, with children as young as three years understanding the association of pink with girls. Dr. Francl Googled images for "chemistry laboratory" and sorted by color; six-fold more equipment appeared in blue, green, or other earth colors than in "girly" pastels. The shift to real lab equipment typically occurs in middle school, about the time that girls lose interest in math and science. Color provides one more subtle cue that these things are not feminine.

Dr. Francl admits that each of these feels trivial alone, but provides an analogy that illustrates the cumulative risk of such things on girls:

Of course, chemists regularly separate closely related materials, by simply repeating the separation process many times on a chromatographic column. The ability to chromatographically resolve two samples depends not only on the selectivity of the process, but on the number of theoretical plates. Think about the number of times a child encounters the standard gender colour-coding scheme every day — the number of theoretical plates is extraordinarily high.

So what can we do to assure that all capable individuals of both sexes can achieve their potential in science?

We may not be able to avoid the gender-linked colour-coding imposed by the larger society, but we can be more attentive to the spaces we create in which we do and talk about science, as well as the materials we use to do it. Even small tweaks in the conditions under which a chromatography column is run can affect the separation.

Don't dis the pink telescope or the lavendar microscope. That may be what it takes to get a girl hooked on science early.

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Greetings on Women's Equality Day

Aug 26 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

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On 26 August 1920, the 19th amendment to the US Constitution passed, granting the right to vote to female citizens. Our foremothers worked hard to achieve this measure of equality, and I appreciate their efforts and sacrifices.

Unfortunately, our progress toward equality has stalled. Today, women average less than 80% of what men are paid for similar work, and women remain underrepresented in leadership positions at every level.

Join me in working toward true equality. Read about Vision 2020. Sign the Declaration of Equality and consider making a donation to the cause.

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Better Late Than Never

Aug 22 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

A while back (PM or pre-moving), Mein Hermitage announced another round of women in academia, no baby questions allowed. I agreed to be on the panel, thinking it would give me an excuse to stop unpacking and do something fun every day or two. Obviously, in the last 14 years some combination of time, aging, and child-induced dementia helped me forget how much damn fun moving could be.

The hub post went up today, when my answers to four questions were supposed to be done.


Fortunately, the house is functional, and we can find most items essential for life. And, I answered one of the questions de jour back in 2009 for Isis' Letters to Our Daughters Project. With shameless efficiency, I repeat it here. By the way, Isis moved her digs to her own domain (every goddess should have one).

The validity of my "embrace your inner bitch" posture was recently validated while reading Guy Kawasaki's book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. In discussing the power of intermittent use of profanity and the reluctance many women feel to use these words, he offers this advice:

...heed the rules that I provided above, and let it rip, because the best way to destroy a double standard is to defy it.

Without further adieu, here is my advice on balancing assertiveness/bitchiness:

Once upon a time, there was a woman who felt that her gender should not be an issue in her career. She wanted to be treated as an equal, she acted like she was equal, and the men called her a bitch.

Bitch -noun

1. a female dog.
2. a female of canines generally.
3. Slang.

a. a malicious, unpleasant, selfish person, esp. a woman


b. a lewd woman.


4. Slang.

a. a complaint.


b. anything difficult or unpleasant: The test was a bitch.


c. anything memorable, esp. something exceptionally good: That last big party he threw was a real bitch


Why does this 5 letter word have such power over women? We are raised to be “nice.” Malicious, unpleasant, and selfish are the opposite of this goal; however, this means that demanding equality may appear bitchy! At so many gatherings I have heard women ask how they can get their needs met without being called a bitch (generally these women spell the word rather than say it). The short answer? You cannot! Anytime you assert your needs and put yourself ahead of someone else, others may call you a “female dog.”
When my daughter was starting middle school, I explained the world to her in my own warped way. I give my students the same advice. If you have a voice that gets heard in the world, someone will call you a bitch. If you perform acts of kindness and charity, someone will say that the bitch is showing off! If you show more spine than a jelly fish, someone eventually will brand you a bitch. Accept it. If someone calls you a bitch, you are probably doing something right.
About a year later a classmate turned to her and called her a bitch. She thanked him for noticing, and then related how she had not reached her mother’s level of “bitchdom” yet. He said nothing more, and did not try to insult her the rest of the year. She came home from school empowered rather than insulted.
Now, this advice does not mean you should be a bitch. Do not be mean or evil, and never treat those lower than you on the ladder of life with contempt. Always have a sounding board of friends who can help you determine the line between reasonable and bitchy. Sometimes you will cross the line, but, with their help, you will recognize this behavior and apologize for it. If you find yourself crossing the line too often, you may need to reexamine your attitudes and behavior. Do not be afraid to do this and make necessary adjustments. It is called “growth.”
Someday I hope we get beyond the name-calling, but until then take pride in some bitchiness. It may just mean you are acting like a human being instead of an invertebrate. It may just mean you are living your life.


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A Man Considers Work-Life Balance

Jul 18 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

Over at AWEnow today I posted about an article I read yesterday. In it, a male chair of a department of medicine considers a number of issues he deems essential for good leadership. I was pleased to see a section on work-life balance, but then I read it...

Click on over and see what you think.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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While on the Road

Jun 23 2011 Published by under Feminist Musings

Gradecards have been posted for every US medical college over at Today's post shows the relationship or lack thereof between the age of the school, it's US News & World Report research ranking, it's proportion of women medical students, and the proportion of women in leadership positions. The latter we call the Female Faculty Friendliness Score.

So go on over and see how the schools turned out. We also need ideas and data for where to turn next. Any organizations out there tracking data like AAMC?

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Joining My Rant

May 18 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers], Feminist Musings

Today Little Pink Book, a website devoted to issues of women in the workplace, posted on gender bias in higher education. Even though women now receive more degrees than men, they represent only 26% of faculty:

Experts say the low presence of women leaders is due to gender bias. Even when women do balance home and work responsibilities, they still earn lower salaries. They also gain fewer recognition awards and are promoted less.

What else can schools do to attract more female instructors? “[Women] need a mentor, a game plan for meeting specific steps toward tenure, outside support from friends and family, and above all – persistence,” suggests Wenniger, adding that men are currently twice as likely to receive tenure.

These issues led to my other web site, Academic Women for Equality Now ( There we explore issues of women in higher education, particularly academic medicine since that is my field and rich, longitudinal data have been collected by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Since its launch on March 28, the 2011 edition of the AAMC report, using data collected in 2009, became available. Several recent posts have examined the level of female participation in medical college leadership at the level of the dean and department, as well as representation as full professors (check out the post on May 19). An overall "Female Friendliness" score was generated for each institution as well, and individual gradecards for each college of medicine providing data will begin appearing next week.

I am delighted to see Little Pink Book joining my rant. I would love to find other women who want to explore these issues for other fields in higher education. The first step in fixing a problem requires defining the problem and what success would look like. Many institutions will be surprised to see how poorly women are represented in their ranks.

Stroll (by which I mean click) on over to the Little Pink Book piece and AWEnow. Let's work to make life in the ivory tower more balanced.


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