Aboriginal Families Seek Action Over Uranium in Drinking Water

Racist policies are making remote Aboriginal communities sick. At least three communities in central Australia have levels of uranium in drinking water that exceed health guidelines, with dozens more not meeting good quality.

“It’s an international scandal that this is allowed to happen in a country like Australia — a rich country like Australia… If that was happening in Victoria, you’d have a hell of a row… Because they’re bush people and not a concern to politicians, they don’t worry about it.”

Continue reading Aboriginal Families Seek Action Over Uranium in Drinking Water

Overcoming Gender Inequality in the Classroom

Stanford law Professors Daniel Ho and Mark Kelman have conducted research showing that larger classes in law schools increase gender inequality. The study has relevance to STEM as the findings support other research about teaching in physics.

The study, published in the Journal of Legal Studies, included almost 16,000 grades given to around 1,900 students. The researchers find that pedagogy (teaching philosophy and teacher-student practice) matters to gender outcomes. The authors conclude that smaller classes where teachers provide more feedback reduce gender differences in grade scores. The researchers found that women outperformed men in small, interactive classes focused on practical exercises. The researchers note that similar results have been found in interactive physics courses.

Professor Kelman argues that the finds go against the “common sense” presumption that gender performance are “fixed”:

“Some naïve reactions are that if women get poorer grades at law school, women must be less capable… I think it’s surprising to many – and perhaps a confirmation of a more optimistic view that I have – that much of the inequality we observe in the world is mutable, and that the structures that we sometimes take for granted may work to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others.”

Sources: The study and quote. Image: Other Sociologist.

[Image: chalk and blackboard with the quote as above from “It’s surprising to many…that much of the inequality…”]

Sociologist Shamus Khan on Re-framing Poverty

Programs that focus on the “culture of poverty” and the alleged “attributes” of poor people don’t get to its root cause, which is, quite simply, that millions of people don’t have enough money. Poverty is not a fixed trait; we can easily make people less poor by giving them enough money so that they’re no longer poor.

Continue reading Sociologist Shamus Khan on Re-framing Poverty

STEM Women in Mathematics: Evelyn Boyd Granville

On STEM Women, we did a series of posts on women who are pioneers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math). I wrote a piece about Evelyn Boyd Granville, who was only the second African American woman to gain a PhD in Mathematics in the USA, in the early 1940s. I especially loved reading all her personal recollections of the sacrifices that her mother and aunt made to put her through university. It seems a moot point to say that parents play a pivotal role in their children’s success. This is not so simple when we understand the empirical evidence of how institutional and social forces can limit parents and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Parents don’t always know how to support girls into STEM careers, and more importantly, they don’t always have the resources or knowledge about where to seek additional help. This is especially pertinent for the careers of minority women in STEM. Continue reading STEM Women in Mathematics: Evelyn Boyd Granville

I Joined the Team at STEM Women

A couple of weeks ago, I joined the STEM Women management team. We are a not-for-profit run by three women of colour: Professor Rajini Rao, Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and myself. Our goal is to improve the visibility and participation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). We have a number of exciting initiatives coming up, including a series of fortnightly Google+ Hangouts (broadcast on our YouTube), hosted by Buddhini and myself (with Rajini behind the scenes). This includes Hangouts with women talking about their careers in STEM; discussions with organisations about practical programs that address women’s inclusion; analysis of topical issues impeding progress and how to move forward; as well as conversations with men about how they can help support women and how we can address gender inequality together.

Earlier today Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I co-hosted the first of our new fortnightly interview series, and Rajini womaned our social media live. We chatted with Professor Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist and editor-in-chief of the open-access journal PLoS Biology. Jonathan was a fantastic guest who spoke candidly about the need for male academics to be more proactive in addressing inequality. He gave some practical examples of how women’s participation in science can be bolstered by simple measures, such as by: offering childcare as part of academic conference services; through diversity training for hiring panels; and providing better mentorship for young women in science. Continue reading I Joined the Team at STEM Women

Gender Bias in Academic Recruitment

A new study published in PNAS finds academic faculty members display gender bias in their recruitment decisions, inhibiting women’s full participation in science. This study shows that by under-rating women’s scientific achievements, there is “a significant wasted opportunity” within the academic research community. 

“Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant.”