Women lead nearly half of US households, yet still lag behind in science

The role of women in the workplace is a perennial topic of discussion as we collectively aspire to the ideal of gender equality. I’d like to juxtapose two interesting trends about women in the US that seem to be much-discussed this year.  The first is a study released this week by the Pew Research Center that has been grabbing headlines with the finding that 40% of households with children under the age of 18 have women as the top earner.  These so-called “breadwinner moms” break down into two distinct categories: those who out-earn their husbands, and those who are single parents. The former (37%) are affluent, well-educated and mostly white, while the latter (67%) tend to earn less, are less likely to be college educated, and mostly non-white.

Now let those numbers stew for a moment, while you consider another set of facts.

The US National Science Foundation finds that, while women earn around 50% of the doctorates in science and engineering, they comprise only 21% and 5% of full professors in science and engineering respectively, as reported in a special section of the journal Nature earlier this year.

Let’s combine these two pictures. Continue reading

On Science Serving Society, from a DC Insider

I recently attended a talk by Dr. Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist who was basically in charge of running NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmostpheric Administration) from 2009-2013.  One of the most highly cited ecologists since, well ever, she was part of Obama’s ‘Dream Team’ of science advisors. During those four years, NOAA went from one turbulent challenge to another including the Gulf Oil spill and multiple extreme storm events like hurricane Irene.

Her talk, under the theme of “Science Serving Society” was fascinating in terms of both content and delivery.  There was not a powerpoint in sight, instead she took us to a “field trip” to that strange foreign country known as Washington DC via a series of twelve short stories that illustrated the culture and habits of yonder parts.  I thought I’d share some little nuggets of wisdom here by way of some quotes that stuck:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”  – Referring to the situation of concerned fishermen anxious about their livelihoods following the disastrous Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf. Point: Researchers may harbor a wealth of detailed knowledge, but applying it takes more finesse and the ability to relate to people. Continue reading