Issue of November 19, 2010
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery
This week's issues:
1. Delusions of Gender
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
I would like to recommend a book. Since I've never done this before, I wanted my first recommendation to be special, and I think I've found a book that fits the bill:
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference By Cordelia Fine
This book recommendation is a follow up to my AASWOMEN item from the July 16, 2010 issue (Talking Points on the Larry Summers Issues: Trucks vs. Dolls). After completing a talk on Unconscious Bias to an audience of astronomers, a colleague asked me a private question about his own kids' toy choices. He confessed that every parent he knew thinks the gender-specific choices result from innate differences. This intrigued me. With the help of my colleague, Wanda Rushing from the Univ. of Memphis Sociology department, I got this recommendation from Sociologists for Women in Society. It is an in-depth, readable, up-to-date book that addresses this fascinating topic in more detail. I just finished reading it, and couldn't wait to pass the recommendation along to AASWOMEN readers. Here are some reviews:
Fine turns the popular science book formula on its head. Chapter-by-chapter, she introduces ideas about innate differences between the sexes... and then tartly smacks around studies supposedly supporting them. (Dan Vergano - USA Today)
Cordelia Fine's thorough (and funny!) Delusions of Gender punches a giant hole in the idea that women's brains are somehow 'hardwired' for nurturing and domesticity. (Anna North - Jezebel.com )
[Fine] effectively blows the lid off of old tropes... Weaving together anecdotes, dense research and quotes from numerous experts, she offers a well-balanced testament to the many ways in which cultural rules inform behaviors often mistaken as organic to our brains, as opposed to learned... [An] informative and often surprising study. (Kirkus Reviews)
With a fabulous combination of wit, passion, and scholarship, Fine demolishes many of the common theories offered to explain the construction of gender in contemporary society.... She shows that the fact that we spend our lives in environments that promote gender differentiation makes those differences nothing more than self-fulfilling prophecies. This marvelous and important book will change the way readers view the gendered world. (Publishers Weekly)
Delusions of Gender takes on that tricky question, Why exactly are men from Mars and women from Venus?, and eviscerates both the neuroscientists who claim to have found the answers and the popularizers who take their findings and run with them... [Fine] is an acerbic critic, mincing no words when it comes to those she disagrees with. But her sharp tongue is tempered with humor and linguistic playfulness... [R]ead this book and see how complex and fascinating the whole issue is. (Katherine Bouton - The New York Times)Back to top.
2. Michael Gurian: Leadership and the Sexes
[It is a coincidence that this item is so closely related to the last, but it does make for an interesting comparison - Eds]
I recently attended a talk by Michael Gurian, who was promoting his new book, Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business. With a title like that, I couldn't help but be intrigued, but also skeptical.
The focus of his talk was not specifically the retention of women in STEM professions, although he did mention that as a problem he hoped to solve by pointing out gender differences. His point was that there are, indeed, biological differences between men and women, in brain activity and development in particular. While those differences don't translate to differences in intelligence, the way we communicate and learn is different. He showed us MRI scans of brains, demonstrating a distinct difference between men's and women's brains to emphasize his point.
Women's brains have more white matter, while men's have more grey matter. This means that women have more connections between different areas of the brains. Thus, men are good at being very single-mindedly focused on one task at a time, while women are very good at communicating, responding to facial cues, and making connections. When at rest, men's brains show much less activity on brain scans then women's. Science is very much a male-brain profession, Gurian argues, so some specific ways for encouraging women in STEM include:
Discard the Ivory Tower paradigm for STEM. The truth is that science has become a more communal effort and that collaboration and communication are vital.
Deal proactively with gender differences. For instance, women tend to go into meetings looking for community and reciprocity, men go in looking to express dominance.
For more:Back to top.
3. Panel Reviews Lack of Women in Science, Engineering Fields
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
By Chris Garofolo, a staff writer for the Reformer in Brattleboro, VT wrote this article on women and review panels.
While the number of women in the science and engineering fields continues to grow, they are constantly outnumbered by their male counterparts, especially in the upper level jobs within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) professions.
Girls take the same math and science courses in equal numbers with boys throughout through elementary, middle and high school careers. They leave to higher education as prepared to pursue science and engineering majors, but fewer women actually continue into those jobs.
So what is holding young women back from choosing these careers?
Looking to push aside stereotypes and a longtime bias that diminishes the achievements of young women in top fields, the Brattleboro branch of the American Association of University Women sponsored a panel forum titled "Why Girls Don't Choose Careers in Science."
The Tuesday night event, held at the Windham Regional Career Center, highlighted the AAUW's recent report questioning why there are so few women in the STEM fields.
Louise Luring, AAUW's public policy chairwoman in Vermont, said social factors such as stereotypes, learning environments and bias can discourage the achievements and interests of young women.
"Women are not as encouraged by society to go into these fields, they are thought of as men's fields," she said.
For more, go here:Back to top.
4. NASA Academy Summer Program
From: Bethany Ehlmann [bethany.ehlmann_at_ias.u-psud.fr]
The 10-week NASA Academy summer program is now taking applications from undergraduate and beginning graduate students in the sciences, math, and engineering. Deadline: January 18, 2011.
The Academies are intensive educational programs emphasizing group activities, teamwork, research, and creativity. The curriculum balances direct contact with science and engineering R amp; D with an awareness of the managerial, political, financial, social and human issues faced by aerospace professionals. Included are seminars, informal discussions, evening lectures, supervised research, visits to other NASA Centers and facilities, group project/s, tours, posters/presentations, and assessment. Additionally, most weekends are filled with group activities, team building and off-site trips. One free weekend is scheduled.
The Academy is not a 9-5 summer research internship program. It is a rigorous, immersive experience that will challenge you. The academy is a space-themed program of high learning about NASA, its projects and collaborations with aerospace industry, and academia, with very little down time, but a busy, exciting summer that you will not forget.
The Academies have separate focus areas of leadership, robotics, aeronatics, space and planetary science, and propulsion. Please see the website to learn more about the Academies at each center: Ames (CA), Marshall (AL), Glenn (OH), and Goddard (MD).Back to top.
5. Job Opportunities in Australia
From: Sarah Maddison [smaddison_at_swin.edu.au]
The Centre for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) is a new Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence scheduled to commence operations in early 2011. CAASTRO aims to position Australia as the world-leader in wide-field radio and optical astronomy by answering fundamental questions about the nature of the Universe, by developing innovative ways of processing enormous data sets, and by enabling a diverse set of opportunities for students and early career researchers. CAASTRO is now advertising a range of scientific, technical and outreach opportunities spread across Australia. For more information and to apply, please visit
Applications close on 7 December 2010. CAASTRO supports a flexible working environment: for Australian citizens and permanent residents, most opportunities are available as either full-time or part-time positions (due to visa restrictions, international applicants can be considered only on a full-time basis).Back to top.
6. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN
[Please remember to replace "_at_" in the below e-mail addresses.]
To submit to AASWOMEN: send email to aaswomen_at_aas.org. All material sent to that address will be posted unless you tell us otherwise (including your email address).
To subscribe or unsubscribe to AASWOMEN go to
If you experience any problems, please email itdept_at_aas.orgBack to top.
7. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN
Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.Back to top.