Thursday, September 30, 2010

Women Scientists in the 21st Century -- A Congressional Panel Speaks

On September 23, 2010, L'Oreal USA and Discover magazine convened a panel for a Congressional briefing on Women in Science. The panel: For Women in Science: 21st Century Policy & Politics covered issues faced by women in science and explored public policies that might address the challenges facing the advancement of female scientists.

The panel was sponsored by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas and included:

Sheril Kirshenbaum, Research Associate at University of Texas at Austin’s Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, author, and blogger for (Moderator)

Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary, Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education

Dr. Shirley Malcom, Head of Education and Human Resources, American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Dr. Joan Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale, and

Dr. Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A thought-provoking overview of the provocative discussions that took place at the panel is provided by Alison Fairbrother who writes:

And perhaps not surprisingly, results of a recent survey of 1,300 female and male scientists suggest that female scientists might be making significant personal sacrifices to achieve professional goals. The survey, commissioned by L'Oreal, in partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), revealed that 61 percent of female respondents were struggling to balance their personal lives and their careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (the so-called "STEM" fields).

Speaking from a personal experience that took place just this week, I had been part of a proposed panel for the upcoming AAAS meeting in DC and had contributed to the writing of the proposal, only to be told by the organizer of the panel (a male) this week in an email message that, for some unclear reason, I was now "cut" from the panel. Maybe it is my plumbing.

No problem, I am back to work on an invited paper and since the "let-down" above have gotten several invitations to speak in other countries (I go to Washington DC often enough).