I came across this Nat Geo article today and wanted to share it. The article highlights 6 women who made significant contributions to science that was ultimately given a Nobel Prize, but the prize went to others (men only).
Women have certainly gotten left out of history over the years. We all know there are many more than the six described here! I did, at least, find it very interesting to learn more about these amazing women. Who is your favorite lady from the past who has “changed” science?
Two AGU planetary sciences section awards are open for nominations for two more weeks. The deadline is May 31.
The Whipple Award has been given to thirteen men, and zero women, since its inauguration in 1990. Although I have no specific information about the gender of nominees, I would be shocked if a relative dearth of women nominees were not a factor that contributes to this appalling statistic. We can fix this. Want to see a woman win the Whipple in 2013? Nominate one. Here is what you have to do:
The Whipple Award was established in 1989 to honor an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science. The award is named after Fred Whipple, a gifted astronomer most noted for his work on comets. Whipple was an AGU Fellow elected in 1962 and the Section’s first Whipple Award honoree in 1990. Whipple passed away in 2004. His many accomplishments are described in this CfA Press Release.
Past Awardees have spanned the breadth and depth of the planetary sciences section. [EDITORIAL NOTE: I beg to differ, since there's obviously at least one dimension along which the "breadth" of the section has not been spanned. --ESL]
Nominations are accepted at any time, but reviewed annually in the summer. Nomination packages must be received by the deadline. Packages should include a current CV and publications list for the nominee, and a nomination letter outlining the candidate’s significant contributions. The nomination should be accompanied by three to six supporting letters from members of the section.
Send nomination packages to:
Arizona State University
School of Earth and Space Exploration
Campus Box 6305
Tempe, AZ 85287-6305 USA
Deadline: May 31, 2013.
The other AGU prize for which nominations have been extended to May 31 is the brand-new Greeley prize. No woman has won this one, either, but
that’s because no one has won it at all it is new; there’s been only one prize winner (Alex Hayes), last year. Here’s the info on the Greeley prize:
The Planetary Sciences Section of AGU is seeking nominations for the Ronald Greeley Early Career Award in Planetary Science. This award is presented annually to an individual in recognition of significant early career contributions to planetary science.
The award is named for Planetary Scientist Ronald Greeley. Ron was a planetary science pioneer whose contributions include the rigorous application of terrestrial field observation techniques to analysis of planetary surfaces. He was involved in nearly every major planetary science mission from the 70s until his death in 2011. He was active in his service to the Planetary Science community, serving on and chairing many panels for both NASA and the National Academy of Sciences. But perhaps his greatest legacy to Planetary Science are the students, postdocs and colleagues he mentored through the decades. Many of the leaders of our field were either directly mentored by Ron, or strongly influenced by his work. He was happiest when sharing his passion for geology with students in the field. It is this passion for planetary science that the Section hopes to encourage and reward with the Ronald Greeley Early Career Award.
Nominees must be a member or affiliate of the AGU Planetary Sciences Section and must be within six years of receiving their Ph.D. on the first day of the year in which the award is to be made (i.e., on or after 1 January 2006 for the 2012 award.) Parental leave, if provided by the candidate’s institution and taken by the nominee during this six-year period, can extend the six-year period.
All documents included in a nomination package should be no more than two (2) pages in length. Nominations should include:
A nomination letter outlining the candidate’s significant contributions;
The candidate’s curriculum vitae;
A selected bibliography for the candidate, which should begin by briefly stating the candidate’s total number and types of publications and specifying the number published in AGU publications; and
A minimum of three but no more than six letters of support – preferably on letterhead. At least two supporting letters should be from individuals not currently or recently associated with the candidate’s institution of graduate education or employment.
Nomination packages must be submitted by the deadline in electronic form (preferred as one combined PDF file) to Phil Christensen or in hard copy to:
Arizona State University
School of Earth and Space Exploration
Campus Box 6305
Tempe, AZ 85287-6305 USA
Deadline: April 30, 2013.
(Yes, it says the deadline is April 30, but Bill McKinnon states clearly in his letter that the deadline has been extended to May 31.)
Awards are important both for professional standing and for the public perception of your value. Women often fail to get nominated for prizes (see e.g. this) and they are even worse at nominating themselves for prizes. For what it’s worth, I nominated myself for the AGU Walter Sullivan journalism prize for the first time this year. And if I don’t win, I’ll nominate myself again next year. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
And maybe once we address the lack of women prize winners, we can start addressing the lack of prizes named for women. One battle at a time!
One of the stories all over the interwebz in the last couple of weeks was the obituary for Yvonne Brill, which began with the now-infamous lede,
“She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said. But Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., was also a brilliant rocket scientist, who in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.”
The fallout was immediate, with lots of Twitter and Facebook feeds declaring it horribly inappropriate to focus on the domestic life of the woman being written about because of her technical accomplishment. This was followed by an equally swift backlash, from both men and women, of, “well, being a mom and a cook were important in her life, so why shouldn’t we celebrate them”?
I posted links and read blogs and argued with friends and family, trying to crystallize why I thought the Brill obit was inappropriate, and moreover, an example of sexism in journalism. I’m not going to use WIPS as a bitch-fest soapbox on just another sexist thing that made me feel angry. But, two things came out of it that I think are actually worth some of your time.
First, the stroganoff line was what people used as shorthand for casting this remarkable woman first in the guise of her womanhood and second for her accomplishments. When the comments erupted, the author deleted the stroganoff mention, but retained the part about following her husband and being a great mom. It’s a common convention when writing about women to give space to how they manage their lives as women, as moms, as nurturing mentors, and oh yeah, scientists. It’s fair to say that everyone eulogized in the New York Times also was a good mom or dad or had hobbies and lives and family situations, but that’s not what earned them a spot in the New York Times, so shouldn’t be the topic of the story. Casting female scientists this way puts their “otherness” first and implies that their accomplishments are made “in addition to” or even “in spite of” their gender responsibilities.
This convention led Christie Aschwanden to develop the “Finkbeiner test” for science writing (http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/finkbeiner_test_gender_gap_fem.php) to help journalists recognize this crutch and to really think about their writing. Similar in spirit to the Bechdel test for movies, to pass the Finkbeiner test, an a story cannot mention:
- The fact that she’s a woman
- Her husband’s job
- Her child-care arrangements
- How she nurtures her underlings
- How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
- How she’s such a role model for other women
- How she’s the “first woman to…”
The article also links to some super examples of articles about female scientists where the only clue is the pronoun she. When you read them, you focus on the science, as intended. Having said that, even the Finkbeiner guidelines acknowledge that there is an appropriate time to talk about women as women first, and to cast their accomplishments among their gender roles. This is what we do all the time on WIPS interviews, which I’m very proud of. But it’s the intent of this series to do that – to share our experiences being a woman in science, and to talk about problems, solutions, and issues that go along with gender. In addition, obituaries or other stories in one’s hometown paper might want to focus on someone’s role as mom, or scout troop leader, or community activist, or church member, or whatever the most important role of that person was to them.
The Finkbeiner guidelines are one way to easily guide science writers out of the larger, more concerning issue of “benevolent sexism” (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/psysociety/2013/04/02/benevolent-sexism/). This is a very real thing that I’m glad there is a name for, because a lot of what we discuss on the blog, or at LPSC events, or with each other, boils down to this. The days of men outright telling a woman she can’t or shouldn’t be a scientist because she is female are nearly over (thank goodness), yet many of us share the experience of having been paid an apparent compliment, with the result of feeling lessened or undermined, and being told to “lighten up” when the remarker is genuinely surprised when you’re upset.
This really great article discusses why the Brill article was unsettling (and as a bonus discusses the kerfluffle when Facebook found out the person behind I Fucking Love Science is female). “In social psychology, these seemingly-positive-yet-still-somewhat-unsettling comments and behaviors have a name: Benevolent Sexism. Although it is tempting to brush this experience off as an overreaction to compliments or a misunderstanding of benign intent, benevolent sexism is both real and insidiously dangerous.” It also links to the original research.
But I don’t want this to be a complete downer. Yvonne Brill was a beloved member of the space community and many of the women in planetary science knew and/or worked with her. As Marcia Smith at SpacePolicyOnline.com said,
“One silver lining of the imbroglio over the New York Times’s bungling of Yvonne Brill’s obituary is that it has piqued people’s curiosity about her. There’s no better way to learn more about her amazing career than to hear it in her own words. On April 2, 2009, Yvonne gave the 32nd Astronautics and Aeronautics Department Lester D. Gardner Lecture at MIT, another one of the honors bestowed upon her (http://video.mit.edu/watch/megabytes-for-the-masses-3730/). It is a technical presentation, mostly about communications satellites and their propulsion systems, but I think you’ll feel like you’ve met Yvonne if you watch it. She was 84 when she gave this lecture.”
Dr. Cari Corrigan is the Curator of Antarctic Meteorites in the Mineral Sciences division of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. She completed her B.S. and M.S. degrees in geology at Michigan State University and her Ph.D. at Case Western Reserve University. Megan Elwood Madden talked with Dr. Corrigan by email for this entry in the 51+ Women in Planetary Science interview series.
Cari, it seems to me you have one of the coolest jobs in the world- studying and curating rocks from outer space. How and when did you become interested in planetary science and meteorites?
I was always interested in astronomy and the outdoors growing up, but, as with many of us in small, rural public school systems, I didn’t realize that there were real jobs that allowed people to study such specific things, like meteorites, for a living.
Just wanted to put up a quick note about some upcoming professional development webinars put on by the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). I have been meaning to highlight these for a while and there are a bunch of great ones coming up in April, so I figured now was as good of a time as any! You do have to be a member, but the membership fee goes directly into putting on these webinars, and other programming and advocacy for Women in STEMM, so it is not a bad thing to invest in :). Plus, all past webinars are recorded and available for viewing.
Monday, April 1 – 3:00 PM-4:00 PM EDT
Mentoring in STEM and the PAESMEM Awards
Speaker: Dr. Jessie A. DeAro, Program Director, PAESMEM Team Lead, National Science Foundation
Wednesday, April 10 – 1:00 PM-2:00 PM EDT
Useful Topics for Managers – Why Effective Communication Will Save You
Speaker: Dr. Joanne Kamens, Executive Director, Addgene
In May 1972, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Council established an ad hoc committee of volunteers, including Anne Cowly, Roberta Humphreys, Beverly Lynds, and Vera Rubin, to evaluate findings that the percentage of women in the AAS was the lowest that it had been in the history of the AAS. In a 1974 report (1), this group reported that women were underrepresented as AAS officers, committee members, prize recipients, invited speakers, session chairs, and journal editors (2). Sound familiar?
In 1979, after yet another report indicated that the status of women in the AAS had changed very little since 1973 (3), the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) was established. The charge to “recommend to the Council practical measures that AAS can take to improve the status of women in astronomy and encourage their entry into this field” was adopted in 1980.
In these past 30+ years, the CSWA has worked diligently to collect and publish information and data that pertain to the recruitment and retention of women in the broad field of astronomy. In particular, the CSWA collects data related to career trajectories of women. In one study, it has found that, in the Ph.D.-granting astronomy departments in the United States, just 15.1% (on average) of the faculty are female and tenured (4). The CSWA is currently conducting another survey to see how departments have changed since 2003. Two important documents, The Baltimore Charter and The Pasadena Recommendations, further assert the importance of supporting women who are equally talented as men, should have equal opportunities in all career fields, and more importantly, deserve to have satisfying and rewarding careers.
Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton is the Director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC. Lindy has a Ph. D. in Geology and Geophysics, an M.S. in Geochemistry, and B.S. in Geology, all from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Prior to DTM, Lindy was a professor at MIT, a research scientist at Brown University, and a lecturer at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, in addition to spending time in the business world. Lindy is an expert in planet formation and evolution, specifically planetary differentiation. On Monday, March 18, Lindy will be giving a talk titled “On Building an Earth-Like Planet” as the Masursky Lecture at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, TX.
Kat Gardner-Vandy, a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, interviewed Lindy for the 51+ Women in Planetary Science series at the idyllic campus of DTM. Here are snippets of their conversations that day:
Looking at your CV, I see an interesting career path that led to Carnegie. You were at MIT several times, had eight years in business, and taught at a small college. Tell us the story of your journey. Read more…