women in science -- thoughts, links, and other stuff
saying of the minute


   sept 9 2010
   may 29 2006
   sept 15 2005
   july 21b 2005
   july 21a 2005
   july 19 2005
   june 21 2005
   may 15 2005

   - Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin
   - Mary Somerville
   - Augusta Ada Byron
   - Grace Murray Hopper
   - Dusa McDuff

   - Association for Women in Mathematics
   - other women mathematicians
   - Alberta Women's Science Network
   - Society for Canadian Women
         in Science and Technology
   - Canadian Coalition of Women
         in Engineering, Science, Trades
        and Technology
         (excellent resource for statistics)
   - SCIberMentor
   - Engineer Girl
   - anita borg institute
         for women and technology
   - Grace Hopper Celebration
         of Women in Computing
   - A guide to mathematicians and their contributions
   - 4000 Years of Women in Science
   - IEEE's Women In Engineering (WIE)
      j.rice @ uleth.ca

last updated feb 2012


It has been a while since I updated this. Mainly the reason for this is that the webpage was intended to support a course I was teaching, and once the course was over other things took priority. However this is not to say that my interest has moved on. I've begun a new project called
LUMACS: Life, U, Mathematics and Computer Science, which is fun, and of course my family has demanded ever-increasing amounts of my time.

This morning, however, I had an "aha!" moment when my 2-year-old turned on the TV before we left to catch the school bus for my 6-year-old. I've been struggling, lately, with whether or not it is worth fighting to be different. Wondering whether I should just "go along and get along", and not worry about making a difference, recruiting more women, changing society's attitudes. It's stressful, thankless, and time-consuming, after all! But this morning's message on whatever kids' cartoon it was went like this: Being different makes you special.

Yes, I know that having diversity in groups is a good thing, but trying to convince everyone else of that has felt like a futile effort lately. And yes, I'm constantly hearing "good for you" when I tell people I'm a Professor in Computer Science (with three kids), which is nice. But the ultimate message I get is "it's ok to be different". To not be the stay-at-home mom. To have a family and a career. There, there dear, it's ok. I DON'T WANT TO HEAR THAT! I want to hear that what I'm doing is good, and necessary, and SPECIAL. So thanks, morning cartoons for kids, for reminding me that being different is not just ok, it makes me special.

May 29, 2006

I have just returned from a conference on circuits and systems. It is THE conference in this area, and attracts a huge number of attendees. The banquet this year was particularly entertaining, but not because of the "official" entertainment. The interest was generated by the comments and conversation supplied by one of my table-mates, who seemed to think that my sole purpose for attending this conference was to supply him with some female companionship. I had never met this person before, so I was quite shocked by his attitude, and by the fact that he was so open in his expression of it. I told my colleague who was also attending that there are three ways to deal with this:
a) out-crude him, or attempt to;
b) freak out and call him a sexist pig and storm off, or
c) laugh and smile and make subtle barbs that once in a while actually sink in.
I chose option c), and this seemed to work, as I clearly had the sympathy of the rest of the table (mostly men).

When I got up to leave, he practically chased me around the table to say goodbye. Fortunately I was able to keep him at arm's length by shaking hands. During this interaction it was made obvious that I was at least 4 inches taller than he, and I had a nice clear view of the top of his head :-) Petty, but satisfying.

The most satisfying part of the evening, however, was when my colleague, who also left with me, said "Now I know what you mean". We'd had a discussion earlier when I stated that at these events I was either shunned or the center of attention, and not usually in a good way. He said he believed me, but I don't think he really knew what I meant. Now he certainly does!

He also went on to relate an experience he had as a grad student; he was invited to a gathering held for Women in Computer Science. There was extra pizza, so we went around to the graduate labs inviting everyone to help us finish it off. He and his buddy (also male) found the room, and looked in ... hesitated ... then left. They were totally intimidated by a room full of women. His buddy then commented that "now we know how women in computer science feel."

Sept. 15, 2005

A friend of mine quoted me this the other day:
"rule of thumb is the more you keep your body out of the water, the more people think they can pile on you before you can drown. Unfortunately, they often fail to remember the 1/9th philosophy wrt icebergs. If only they knew what we are already carrying before they threw more crap on us."

This is true of everyone who is competent at their jobs, I suspect, but my experiences have been that it is even more so with women. Women, at least those in my current immediate circle, tend to be less apt to "blow their own horn", and just carry on with their jobs, being quietly competent. It's great to work with people like that, but many (most?) people forget about all the unsung work that they are doing in the background! We're just not good at tooting our own horns. I'm sure this applies to plenty of men, too, but majority of the men I know seem to know how competent they are (or think they're competent when they're not) and aren't shy about letting people know about their opinions of themselves.

Is this something we can train? Or should we look at training managers to better identify and recognize, in both senses of the word, the quietly competent folks? Or, are we doomed to have icebergs worth of tasks piled on us until we sink? Hmmm.

July 21(b), 2005

Another link I ran across today: a student running a project on prenatal gender selection -- certainly a science that has a direct impact on women (i.e. women's reproduction) but also raises some dilemnas for women who live in cultures where female children are accorded less value (or even no value) than are male children.

July 21(a) 2005:

Here is a very interesting article about enrollment in Computer Science at universities with some discussion about attracting women and minorities.

July 19 2005:

I recently ran across some comments I made last year on my personal blog about success and how to measure it: what is success

June 21 2005:

I spoke with a female student doing her Master's in Computer Science the other day. She said her supervisor liked to have at least two "girls" in his research group. I would have preferred the term "women" but that may have been changed in the translation from person to person, so I won't blame that on anyone. I did find it interesting that a specific number of women was given; not "some", or "one", or a "few" but "at least two". I had to wonder why.

There were a couple of possibilities I came up with:
1. given the current atmosphere of promoting women to follow areas like Computer Science, has this particular person found that having more than one "minority", in this case women, working together, provides a more congenial and friendly atmosphere to the minority members? Or,
2. has he discovered that the research group as a whole is more cohesive and productive with a mix of genders?

You see where I'm going with this? Is this an attempt to make the group more friendly towards women (thus making the female students more productive and successful, at least in theory), or is it an attempt to make the group more friendly towards everyone? Or am I totally out to lunch and there is another reason entirely? I don't really care either way, I just found it something interesting to think about.