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Of men, women and chimpanzees June 14, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science, women.
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Holy bananas I got a Hubble fellowship!

Dr. Smith was ectstatic he'd been shortlisted for a fellowship

Last week I listened to an excellent podcast at Slate.com on how to get more women into science. I can’t find the podcast anymore but the transcript is here, with lots of interesting links. In it, Ray Fisman reports results of a study into academic achievement in maths and science at the US Air Force Academy. The study found that replacing male instructors with a female one has a dramatic impact on the performance of the female students in the class, bringing it level with that of the men. Specifically,

women on average obtain scores that are 0.15 grade points lower (half the difference between an A and an A-) than their male classmates, even after accounting for students’ SAT scores. The gap in performance was widest for women taught by men. When a female instructor was put at the front of the classroom, nearly two-thirds of the grade point gender gap evaporated.

Bottom line: hire more women. (more…)

Gender bias in peer-review: the final word? June 1, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science, women.
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It’s a much-quoted argument by advocates of “equal opportunities” in science that scientific papers written by female authors are consistently ranked lower in peer review than those of their male colleagues. Indeed, several studies (Bornmann et al, 2007; Budden et al., 2008; not exclusively in physics & astronomy) have appeared to indicate that women authors don’t fare as well in peer review, be it for papers, grant applications or fellowship proposals. It’s a popular topic of discussion in the “Women in Science” circles as a clear-cut, proven area where discrimination on the basis of gender takes place. (more…)

Ada Lovelace, Girl Geek #1 March 24, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science, women.
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Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate women in in IT and technology. Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was Lord Byron’s daughter – yes, that Lord Byron – and she was a truly exceptional woman. In a time when it was unusual, if not frowned on, for a woman to be involved in any serious intellectual pursuits, Lovelace was one of the first people in the world to see the potential of computers and write computer programs. And this all before Charles Babbage even built his “computer engine”.

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Watch Men save the planet March 17, 2009

Posted by Sarah in random, women.
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I saw the film Watchmen last week, the adaption of a classic in the graphic novel genre with the same title by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It’s pretty enjoyable, especially if you’re in the mood for some great visual effects and gore. Lots of blood and bone-crunching. I’ve never been a big comic or graphic novel fan but I decided to read the book and in fact it’s really good! The drawings are beautiful and the writing is very imaginative with lots of depth. So if you want to know what the hype is all about but aren’t a fan of severed limbs and arteries then I recommend the book. I do want to say something about the female characters though.

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Because she’s worth it March 11, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
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Continuing the theme of women astronomers winning big prizes, one of this year’s L’Oréal-UNESCO awards for women in science was awarded to Brazilian astronomer Prof. Beatriz Barbuy. Barbuy is a professor at the University of Sao Paulo (site in Portuguese) and also currently the Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Her work in astronomy focuses on the study of chemical abundances in stars and stellar populations thoughout the history of the Universe. Barbuy is also the first astronomer to win this award in its 11-year history. 

Very nice!

A press release from the IAU here.

The official site from L’Oréal is here (web designers, meet usability, you need to talk). 

PS: Thank you L’Oréal for supporting these awards and for doing lots to encourage more women to take up science. I appreciate that. You could help even more by not trying to convince us (us = men and women) all the time that wrinkles and cellulite are bad. Also, stop making false scientific claims in your adverts (here, here).