Saturday, August 11, 2012

Yesterday I found this snarky article about women in science, with the thesis that few women are scientists because they find better paying jobs doing other things.  The best part of it, for me, is Philip Greenspun's explanation for why boys/men join academia:  "Having been both a student and teacher at MIT, my personal explanation for men going into science is the following:
1.  young men strive to achieve high status among their peer group
2.  men tend to lack perspective and are unable to step back and ask the question "is this peer group worth impressing?"
This explanation really makes sense for many of the personality types that I have met in the science field.  I don't think that this comment necessarily has to be about gender per se though- I have also met women who passionately fall into this category as well.  If I am going to make general gender comments about women in science though, I might also add that for some women in science, a sexuality component does exist.  For gender-unbalanced fields, the few women who participate are given a disproportionate amount of attention.  This is a boon for egotistical personalities, but more complicated for insecure women.  They are left wondering if they are good enough as scientists, or if they are just succeeding for external reasons (known as their breasts).  Many of my male colleagues are single, and have openly acknowledged their sexual frustration and lack of suitable partner, which does  make me reevaluate why they like hanging out with me.  To be honest, in the short term it is nice to have attention, but I think I'm growing out of that desire.  Being "physics hot" gets old- this peer group is no longer worth impressing.