Story 2015-04-16 75J7 Claims of gender bias in Canada's Science Hall of Fame nomination process

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

by
in science on (#75J7)
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that two researchers have stepped down from the Science Hall of Fame selection panel over claims that cultural bias is limiting the number of female researchers nominated for the honour. No female researchers have been nominated for two years running and former panelists Judy Illes and Catherine Anderson argue in their resignation statements that the lack of nominations reflects a cultural bias that fails to reflect the contributions women make to science nationally and globally.

Anecdotally, the gender bias claims echo how the work of Rosalind Franklin was rewarded in her lifetime following the discovery of the structure of DNA. As a Wikipedia summary notes: "Franklin is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA while at King's College, London, which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. According to Francis Crick, her data and research were key in determining the structure. Watson confirmed this opinion in his own statement at the opening of the King's College London Franklin–Wilkins building in 2000 and formulating Crick and James Watson's 1953 model regarding the structure of DNA. Franklin's images of X-ray diffraction, confirming the helical structure of DNA, were imprudently shown to Watson by Wilkins without her permission. Her work was published third, in the series of three DNA Nature articles, led by the paper of Watson and Crick. Watson, Crick and Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Watson suggested that Franklin would have ideally been awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Wilkins."
Reply 24 comments

A couple years ago (Score: 3, Informative)

by vanderhoth@pipedot.org 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.

[1] http://blogjob.com/oneangrygamer/2014/11/cbc-breaches-multiple-journalistic-ethics-standards-to-smear-gamergate/
[2] http://www.reddit.com/r/KotakuInAction/comments/31p2sz/success_entertainment_weekly_corrects_and/
[3] http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/10/26/cbc_fires_jian_ghomeshi_over_sex_allegations.html
[4] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-rolling-stone-rape-scandal-when-subjects-come-before-readers/article23820366/
[5] http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-what-went-wrong-20150405
[6] http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/global-tv-anchor-leslie-roberts-resigns-after-probe-finds-he-breached-conflict-of-interest-rules

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

by rocks@pipedot.org 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 vanderhoth@pipedot.org on 2015-04-16 14:54 (#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, Interesting)

by rocks@pipedot.org 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 http://cstmuseum.techno-science.ca/en/hall-of-fame/hall-of-fame-hall.php 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 (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/04/08/1418878112.abstract) 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 vanderhoth@pipedot.org 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: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2015-04-17 06:37 (#77VE)

Is this something we can change the preception of?
Why should we?

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 02:01 (#79R6)

Do you not want more women in your work environment?

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-18 11:52 (#7AD5)

Why would he ?

I know it sounds tongue-in-cheek, but the question is nonetheless a very valid one, me think.

I don't care if there are more or less women in my working environment, I just want people who do their job right, be it 10%, 50% or 90% of women. Gender is irrelevant to that, at least as far as my own experience in IT goes.

I hope your point wasn't that "more women equals a higher likelihood to get a date after hours" ?

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 17:10 (#7AT5)

You make a good point. However, in my experience men and women and ratios of men and women do make a difference at work because of different styles of individual and group behaviors, communication, etc. Whether the ultimate cause of this is nature or nurture. I am actually surprised at the implication that gender is a completely neutral factor in your workplaces because that hasn't been my experience. Maybe that reflects on me though.For what it's worth, here is an example anecdote from my workplace. We have a male Commissionaire at the entrance to our building. I have always had an easy experience in my interactions with him, but other colleagues of mine have not. The ones with the most difficulties are all diminutive women, it made me wonder if we were being treated differently principally on the basis of gender.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 17:29 (#7AV1)

The ones with the most difficulties are all diminutive women, it made me wonder if we were being treated differently principally on the basis of gender.
Sure we are. So what? This would only be a problem is one side only gets all the pros and the other side all the cons. Do you believe that is true?

Here is a nice parody. Unconditional equality? Sure, fine with me, but then, please, exactly like in this film:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_PTxpIjGXE

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-20 07:36 (#7DCY)

However, in my experience men and women and ratios of men and women do make a difference at work because of different styles of individual and group behaviors, communication, etc. Whether the ultimate cause of this is nature or nurture. I am actually surprised at the implication that gender is a completely neutral factor in your workplaces because that hasn't been my experience.
Sure, from communication or social interaction points of view, the ratio absolutely does make a difference. But from a work quality point of view (e.g. code quality and research results), not so much. YMMV.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 16:25 (#7AR9)

I don't care. I don't go to work to meet women there.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 16:58 (#7ASH)

Fair enough. I probably just typed a bad joke. My question was worded vaguely to allow for variety of responses. In the vein of seriousness, I was actually interested in your implied view that one/we would have no interest in extending ourselves to welcome women to an IT workplace if their possible non-participation was based on a false impression of how unwelcome women are/were in this context. I am generally motivated to address false impressions where I think they exist, at least modestly so.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 17:21 (#7AV0)

In my opinion we should ignore this topic at all and mostly the people who bring it up (*). It is simply a non issue. Women are not more or less welcome in IT than blue eyed people, red haired people, fat people, people with mustaches, or people who lisp. The only thing that matter is skills and interest. Anyone who claims otherwise is an idiot and/or has an agenda.

(*) In this case I don't mean you, but people who constantly claim women are discriminated or even hated. Still I'd prefer not to see topics like this on pipedot. For this /. is good enough and their articles constantly draw in all the sjw scum and feminazis. I can live with out them here.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 17:39 (#7AVG)

I take your point about pipedot and I will respect it in the future. Thank you for responding on the topic in this case.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 17:42 (#7AVH)

I take your point about pipedot and I will respect it in the future.
It is my point. Nothing more. Topics are voted on in pipe. ;-)

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 17:59 (#7AW3)

Yeah. No worries. I really like pipedot. I've just been trying to put some stories in the pipe the past few days because it had been slowing down. I am personally interested in this issue... However, in the context of pipedot I'm mostly interested in posting stories that inspire positive and educational exchanges. I can respect that this kind of topic is common elsewhere and look for different topics therefore.

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

by evilviper@pipedot.org 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 rocks@pipedot.org 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 rocks@pipedot.org 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]

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-18 02:13 (#79RM)

In my senior undergraduate class in geology, there were 8 males, 1 female. The year after me there were 10 females, 3 males. In grad school, we had a transgendered prof who was very cool and, as far as I could tell, didn't really phase anyone.

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 1)

by vanderhoth@pipedot.org on 2015-04-16 15:05 (#76EN)

Sorry, I found the hall of fame website right after my last post

These are all the recipients, I can't figure out what years each of them won in:
http://cstmuseum.techno-science.ca/en/hall-of-fame/hall-of-fame-hall.php

This is the nominations page, it looks like nominations are open to anyone and they have guide lines post as to what the committee will accept:
http://cstmuseum.techno-science.ca/en/hall-of-fame/hall-of-fame-nominations.php

Ha, I won't say which one, but one of my old University profs actually sits on the committee.
http://cstmuseum.techno-science.ca/en/hall-of-fame/hall-of-fame-selection-committee.php

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 2)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-16 16:05 (#76KN)

Thanks. Your second post motivated me to do my own fact-checking as well and I went to the same website.

It was actually quite eye-opening to go directly to the source rather than taking the CBC article as the most effective reading of the data. It might make posting stories to Pipedot harder, but incorporating this kind of fact-checking could make the story summaries more balanced and fair (just like Fox News).

Mind you, if Pipedot is engaged in news aggregation, it raises the question of what is news when news agencies might be creating stories out of no or little evidence.