Comment 79RJ Re: A couple years ago


Claims of gender bias in Canada's Science Hall of Fame nomination process


A couple years ago (Score: 3, Informative)

by on 2015-04-16 11:47 (#7608)

A couple years ago I would have believed this story, but the CBC has become a nest of agenda pushing click bait journalists who will take any opportunity to take a story and blow it out of proportions [1]. They have to feed the outrage culture to keep generating income. There are so many cases now of reporters knowing they're not reporting the truth, not just in CBC, but pushing it anyway, then apologizing later [2] or insisting in spite of actual evidence they've done nothing wrong.

I've seen so many reporters in the last year involved in scandals, pushing personal agendas and involved in conflicts of interest [3][4][5][6]. The media just wants things to get people angry and journalists will do whatever they can to get the "facts" that back whatever narrative they decide they're going to push.

Honestly I believe there's no such thing as a reliable source in the media anymore. If it's not coming directly from the horses mouth take it with salt. You can't even trust the sources I'm listing below.

Be skeptical.


Re: A couple years ago (Score: 3, Interesting)

by on 2015-04-16 14:25 (#76BD)

Thanks for this... it's a good reminder...

I believe that I am pretty skeptical about media output, but maybe I'm not, in fact. I am conscious that I am the easiest one to fool in the case of self-perception. I really appreciate your comment as it provides an outside perspective for me.

In any case, my motivation to submit the story was that I thought it provided an opportunity to discuss an issue that I believe is important -- i.e., how we recognize and reward scientists for their contributions to knowledge (with jobs, tenure, salary, grants, awards, or, in this case, a nomination to a Canadian Science Hall of Fame). One of the ways to evaluate how we reward scientists is to look at what is actually happening. I was prepared to trust the CBC article -- without further research -- in its claim that no women have been nominated for the Canadian Science Hall of Fame in the last two years. Maybe I am naive, but I didn't think the article would fake this fact. If true, on its own it is an interesting observation with two end-member implications that either: (1) women's contributions haven't warranted a nomination when compared to the competing nominations of male scientists, or (2) the nomination process is biased in regards to gender. I was hoping Pipedot readers would have some views on this, either from direct observation of women's worthy contributions or the lack thereof. Maybe there is no way to sort that kind of thing out on an internet forum, however, and the article and story ends up just being clickbait. I suppose I could have looked up the statistics independently from the Science Hall of Fame site itself and linked to that, if I had found anything noteworthy, and maybe that's the lesson for me here.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 2)

by on 2015-04-16 14:52 (#76DX)

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not criticizing you for posting the story. I'm criticizing the CBC, and media in general, for creating an state of affairs that I CAN'T take this article at face value. If it's true, I'm pretty appalled as well.

Being skeptical doesn't mean I don't believe the story isn't a possibility, but it could be a women hasn't been nominated/won and award for a number of reasons, but the CBC is most likely just focusing on the gender side of things as a method to piss people off and generate clicks at the expense of the reputations of those that sit on the nomination committees. I highly doubt they all sit around tempeling their fingers scheming ways to keep women out while muttering, "Excellent", when a women doesn't win the nomination.

Instead of looking at whether women have been nominated in the last two years, I'd like to look at who was nominated and for what reason. Maybe, the nominations were fairly given out, but it just happens some people were more deserving and happened to be male. I tried to go look it up, but unfortunately Google is now full of articles parroting each other about the committee members that resigned. So I'll have to go back to it to investigate when I have more time.

That brings up another issue with media publications as well. One prints a faluty story with little fact or mostly incorrect facts and other publications jump on it and print the same stories without doing their own independent fact checking. By the time anyone knows there was something wrong with the original story it's reached critical mass and people are losing their minds about it. Then the original publication will make a small correction to the article, no ones the wiser, but the public's still calling for blood based off fault information.

Anyway, sorry for the rant, I didn't mean to seem like I was coming down on you for posting the article.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 3, Insightful)

by on 2015-04-16 15:57 (#76JM)

Thanks for this as well... your elaboration is exactly the kind of thoughtful commentary I was hoping for... you raise a number of interesting points...

Point One: What is the gender breakdown of Hall members? I went to the Canada Science Hall of Fame website and expanded the Hall members list until the "show more" option stopped coming up. I then scanned the Hall members and got these numbers (after only one visual pass over the list): 60 total members, 10 women (so a Hall membership rate of 16.7% women). This strikes me as quite possibly reflective of merit based on the participation of women in science over the past century which may have structurally favoured greater opportunities for men.

Point Two: Who were the nominees for the past two years and why? I actually think this information is probably not published and I'm not sure what the ethics would be on publishing the information of unsuccessful nominees. Nonetheless, considering this question made me realize that I actually sit on an awards committee for some career geoscience awards and I haven't seen any women nominated for the awards that my committee judges in any of the past four years. However, this is mostly reflective of who gets nominated by the general community and not of the gender bias of myself or my fellow panelists because our committee doesn't go out looking for nominations ourselves (we simply judge on the nominations we receive). Women have received these awards in the past, however; a woman is on the panel itself; and, I am not aware of any gender bias from the panelists when choosing recipients of the award. A role for gender bias may be in the structural opportunities presented to women selecting careers in geoscience up until now, however.

Point Three: How might the popular media have fed a narrative without regard for fact or context? I find this quite interesting at this stage. I think that certain narratives gain traction in society and are useful for the goals of media corporations therefore because they have traction and generate support and thus revenue. However, sometimes the continued appeal to an established narrative can cause new problems. For example, there may be evidence emerging at the leading edge of this issue that present-day men are actually at a disadvantage to women in starting a career in science research. A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ( observed experimentally a 2:1 hiring preference in academic faculty for women over men for tenure track science positions. Thus, men may still be winning the majority of career science awards right now due to past structural biases, but the bias pendulum may be swinging to women's favour presently and this may lead to new observations in a generation's time. This leads to your main point, perhaps, that:

Point Four: The CBC article probably doesn't advance this discussion much because it invokes a simple narrative on a possibly nuanced topic.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-16 19:16 (#7704)

You've put some amazing thought into your response, needless to say I actually agree with a lot of it. There's a lot of intresting information here I would love to examine, mainly who has been nominated in the past and for what. That would be the best way to tell if there's some significant gender bias going on.

I've been involved in a lot of debates about women in the IT industry over the last year and one thing that's come up that I'd like to find a way to examine is, is there a lack of women joining IT because the industry is actual hostile to them, or is it because it's perceived to be hostile to them.

The media picks up and amplifies cases where women are mistreated, which if I was a young girl I'd might see and say, "Nope I'm not spending my career working in a job pinned to the ground level by people that hate me". It's interesting that young women aren't even going to university for IT. When I was in university there were only four women in my graduating year, vs. ~50 men. I sit on a scholarship committee that gives to women going into IT and we only get like two applications a year. We've had years with zero applications.

Is this something we can change the preception of?

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 4, Insightful)

by on 2015-04-17 07:10 (#77WM)

is there a lack of women joining IT because the industry is actual hostile to them, or is it because it's perceived to be hostile to them.
3rd option is that they just aren't interested in the high-stress, inflexible hours, no job security, continual retraining, etc, that a career in IT brings.

Notice that nobody complains and makes a political issue out of how few female truck drivers and auto mechanics there are. Nor is anyone overly concerned that nursing & social work is overwhelmingly dominated by women.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-18 02:03 (#79RH)

Good points. Interestingly, you rarely hear about people clamoring for more women as professional wrestlers a la WWE. I wonder about the SUMO variety too...

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-18 02:05 (#79RJ)

From the Wikipedia entry on Women and sumo:

Professional sumo is notable for its exclusion of women from competition and ceremonies. Women are not allowed to enter or touch the sumo wrestling ring (dohyō), as this is traditionally seen to be a violation of the purity of the dohyō.[16] The female Governor of Osaka from 2000-2008, Fusae Ohta, when called upon to present the Governor's Prize to the champion of the annual Osaka tournament, was required to do so on the walkway beside the ring or send a male representative in her place. She repeatedly challenged the Sumo Association's policy by requesting to be allowed to fulfill her traditional role as Governor. Her requests were repeatedly rejected until she stepped down from office.
The view of those who criticize this continuing "men-only" policy is that it is discriminatory and oppressive.[16] In general, women in the sumo world are only expected to be supportive wives of rikishi, and, in the case that their husband has become a stable master, a surrogate mother for all of his disciples.[13] The view of the Sumo Association is that this is a tradition that has been firmly maintained through the centuries, so it would be a dishonor to all of their ancestors to change it.[16]
This was not always the case. Starting as early as the 18th century a form of female sumo or onnazumo was performed in some areas of Japan. In the cities it was more of a spectacle often associated with brothels. However, in some areas of Japan female sumo had a serious role in certain Shinto rituals. In later years, there were limited tours of female sumo that lasted for a time.[17] However, female sumo is not considered to be authentic by most Japanese and is now prohibited from taking place beyond amateur settings.[18]

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