Astronomy Cast Ep. 399: Women in Science

Article Updated: 3 Feb , 2016

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Science is typically a male dominated profession, mostly dudes, not a lot of ladies. From researchers to professors, to law makers, woman have a tough time gaining traction in such a heavily gendered field. Today we’re going to talk about what it takes to make it as a woman in science, what additional hurdles you’ll have to navigate, and what resources are available if you’re being harassed or discriminated against.

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4 Responses

  1. Smokey says:

    I’m proud of myself: I managed to avoid snarling aloud more than twice at the… “people”… being discussed. I have a real problem with “men” who not only cannot control themselves, but see no logical/ethical reason why they should.

    What I don’t understand is how, legally, confidentiality agreements should extend to validated findings and any resulting punishments. I get that accusations handled outside a court of law should be handled confidentially until a conclusion is reached — false accusations & character assassinations are a potential thing — but if a man has been found responsible and reprimanded accordingly, what’s the point if no one ever finds out? Why on Terra should such findings NOT be a part of the public record?

    • kkt says:

      The reason is mainly to avoid a libel suit. A university’s investigative process is not the same as finding the harasser guilty in court. Hearsay may be admitted, the accused may not have the opportunity to cross-examine the accuser and other witnesses. A libel suit’s discovery process could result in many other things being made public that would be embarrassing. Court is always expensive and the results are chancy and the university would rather stay out of it if possible. The expense could also bankrupt the harassed person, if they’re a poor grad student or junior faculty member and the harasser is at the top of their career. Not an easy choice, and I respect those institutions who do make a harassment finding public.

      Thanks to Pamela for discussing this painful topic. My mom was among the first women in geology, starting her PhD program in the mid 1970s. No harassment, but she was older and more confident than most PhD students. Sexist remarks that were presumably meant to be funny, though. When she was hired as a professor, she was not the very first woman faculty member the department had had, but the first one had left before my mom started. She served, among other things, on her university grievance committee hearing harassment among other sorts of cases.

      • Smokey says:

        Hmmm. This might explain why the military is doing a nominally better job at rooting out the problem: their “employees” are required to accept the administrative &/or judicial findings of such inquiries, and those found at fault are more restricted in their potential responses. Also, any retaliatory behavior (regardless of any finding or lack thereof) is in and of itself also subject to punishment under the UCMJ.

        It’s not a perfect system, certainly, but then neither is civil law enforcement, and it’s seems a lot closer to what’s needed to address this issue. At the very least it seems easy enough to publicize the fact of any such reprimand/fine, if not the precise reason for it; sports teams do it all the time by suspending players for a certain number of games due to “unspecified violation(s) of team rules.”

  2. Mich48 says:

    Thanks for putting light on how such a significant issue crosses on all fields. Humanity is so linked together in our evolution; why should science be assumed to be different than any other facet of society. There are abuses going on to be sure. How dear, is this world that we as (some former) academia’s can’t rise above with our intelligents to respect others to a higher level than some hedonistic norm. Society says to behave; however, glee seems to push indiscretions. Respecting each other to a mutually understandable level seems a perfect outcome. As a male; I was bullied in mid 1970’s high school by my own trusted cousin. After I had lived in several different states. Integrating Baltimore, Maryland in 1969! After ten different schools having very good friends. Friends I said goodbye to. Only to made into some pussy that girls didn’t like. I only hope that social media put an end to my teen angst. But, there a lot of A holes out there. Geeks included; They quite enjoyed seeing someone below them on the food chain. I shouldn’t be surprised to hear of their grown up maturity index scores.

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