The summer between sixth and seventh grade was a long one. I was super gawky—already six feet tall, equally passionate about science and musical theater, with pants that never quite reached the ground—and I spent most of my days on the sofa, wolfing down episodes of The X-Files.
Today, the show celebrates the 20th anniversary of the day its first episode hit the air. As a tween, I couldn't have asked for a better role model than Agent Dana Scully.
So I saw Jurassic Park 3-D last night. I know. It was $17. That's ridiculous. But if there's one movie from my childhood worth revisiting on the big, three-dimensional screen, it's Jurassic Park. This was actually the very first movie I remember seeing on the big screen when I was a kid and I clearly remembered all the famous dino scenes—the dilophosaurus melting Newman's face, the T-Rex eating the lawyer, the "clever girl." But I had forgotten one major element of the film: Dr. Ellie Sattler is the best!
It seems like recently women's underrepresentation in science and technology is finally being seen as a serious issue. It's a more and more frequent topic of conversation in the feminist blogosphere, and in last week's New York Times, four top women scientists discussed some of the barriers women face in pursuing a scientific career and how institutional commitment to increasing representation can have a big impact.
But seriously. "Daring to Discuss Women in Science" by John Tierney ran in the New York Times two days ago. In it, Tierney announces a proposed national law that would require the White House science adviser to oversee workshops aimed to close the gender gap in science and engineering. But rather than express support for the proposal ("Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering," section 124 out of 700-section bill, brief the 248-page PDF here), Tierney in so many words says, "You guys, I hate to be the buzzkill, but girls are worse at math than boys. I can prove it."
The Washington Post article linked above, for example, is pretty straightforward. It explains that scientists in Britain tested 17 male and female financial traders for their testosterone levels and then had them play a money game involving risky or safe investments. The people with high testosterone, regardless of gender, chose the riskier investments. But the article makes the mistake right off the bat of saying the study is about "male hormone testosterone." A study whose results should break down gender differences instead is framed as reinforcing them: only women who have high testosterone (which is not a male hormone. It's found in both men and women) act like men. Smaller news sources riff on the same mistake , framing finance as a career for men and viewing women who become bankers as therefore acting like men.
Science journal Nature wins the award for best coverage. They refer to the phenomena as simply "traders' testosterone"—a refreshingly ungendered term.
But whatever, the WaPo's faulty framing is small potatoes compared to this headline from The Economist: "Hormones, not sexism, explain why fewer women than men work in banks." Uh... WTF Economist? This study did not look at reasons women work in banks, it doesn't examine social norms or widespread career statistics. Extrapolating that the presence of one hormone can explain away decades of female career choices is totally unfounded and provides dangerous fodder to folks who want to believe we live in a post-sexism society.
And on the far fringe of poor reporting lies the Press Association who conjured up this bizarre headline from the study: "Risky women are 'hungry for sex.'" I'm not even going to get started on that one.
Beauty company and science scholarship provider L'Oreal surveyed 1,000 Americans this spring and asked them to name a single female scientist. The result was an EPIC FAIL! While 97 percent of respondents believed that women could make significant contributions to science (personal aside: terrible three percent, you're probably that uncle everyone hates. I hope you choke on your sandwich.) 65 percent could not name a sole woman in science.
This is troubling, because while the number of women earning science and engineering degrees has risen to 43 percent of total students (nerdy graphs here), apparently Americans still don't know female scientists are out there workin' hard.
Keep reading to learn more!
Stop the presses! Science has released a groundbreaking study! According to new research at the University of Michigan, bonding with friends makes women feel good.
Okay, so definitely not hot news, right? But what IS interesting is the way newspapers and websites reported on the study. The U of M researchers found that after emotional conversations, women release progestrone, a hormone that reduces stress.
But apparently mainstream press can only describe intense, personal conversation between women with one word: GOSSIP!
Check out the top ten most popular headlines via Google news about the study: 1. Women who gossip can live a happy and healthier life, study finds. 2. Gossiping is good for women's health 3. Gossip is good for women's health, scientists claim 4. Friendship is a mood uplift 5. Good health from a good gossip? 6. Gossiping Reduces Anxiety and Stress in Women - A Study 7. Gossipping can be healthy: Research 8. Now Women Have An Excuse 9. Idle chatter makes women healthier, happier. 10. A scientific take on female friendship.
Ouch, at 20 percent accuracy, 80 percent "Women are Gossiping Gossip Hounds" that's a failing score, headline writers.