Thus Spake Zuska, “The Playing Field Will Never Be Equal: Gender Equity For Physicists”

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So, the American Physical Society had a gender equity workshop, and all the bigwigs came – chairs of 50 major physics departments, 14 division directors of national labs, leaders from NSF and DOE. “After all, if there is to be change, it has to come from the top.” Sounds good on paper. There was some blah-blah about “leaders should” set codes of conduct, make expectations clear, be aware of subtle biases, etc. – you know, be good managers. Which, it was duly noted, is not a characteristic the usual physics group can claim. Then we get the usual ‘times are changing, team work, collaboration, blah blah, this will benefit women, increased global competition means we need the skills of everyone even if you don’t feel like being fair, diversity benefits women AND men, and that’s a wrap on the article.’In the middle of the piece we find two other usual components of Gender Equity In (your discipline here) Articles.

  1. Everything can be blamed on the kids! “The single biggest issue to face, of course, is that of children.” Not professors who sexually harass students and colleagues. Not hostile environments in the workplace and classroom. Not the attitudes of male physicists to women who have children. But children. Women having children in a context-free environment, somehow, it’s really no one’s fault, it just so happens that it becomes a problem for them to continue in their careers. Maybe if we gave them more time to apply for young investigator awards? Yes, that’s it!. If you’ll excuse me a moment, I am going to phone up Absinthe and let her know about this great new idea. When she’s done with her maternity leave, she could still be eligible to apply for a grant and….oh, wait. That’s right. Her f*cking pig of a boss hounded her out of science for giving birth, so she won’t be applying for any young or old or middle-aged investigator grants, now will she? Lest you worry that any of the actions or policy changes recommended at the conference will actually change things, the Nature Physics editorial reminds us “the playing field will never be level on this score.” So there. Women, in pain will you bring forth children.
  2. Of course, we must not forget the poor advisors, who struggle valiantly to continue their research programs in spite of women dropping babies left and right in the labs and ruining everything. “Extensions and allowances are all very well” but what about those bastards over at CERN who are threatening to scoop us? They aren’t going to give a shit if Absinthe’s sisters want to procreate. So, a little lip service to the idea of cooperative teamwork and giving a good goddam about women in physics never hurt anyone, but at the end of the day, “there is a need, therefore, to keep firmly in sight exactly how science works.”

A lot of what she says applies to the legal profession, unfortunately. We are unlikely to make partner if we insist on procreating. Or even if we don’t…

–Ann Bartow

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0 Responses to Thus Spake Zuska, “The Playing Field Will Never Be Equal: Gender Equity For Physicists”

  1. bob coley jr says:

    One might have hope(as one reads online) that as remote scolarship becomes the norm(via computer scientists, universities, governments etc.) that this topic will move to what has been and is being done to evolve toward equality and not just a debate of what is or has been wrong with the presant and past. The preocupation wih causes should lead us to solutions. But what does an old radical like me know?

  2. sistrofphyscsbrothrs says:

    Sorry for the delay in answering. I have been busy with a little something that proves it gets worse for APS: APS was sued in federal court days before this “summit” for gender discrimination. How does that affect the credibility of the information APS presented?

    The leader of the summit, Dr.Judy Franz told me personally that if you hire mothers, they will take less pay than non-mothers, what a wonderful fix for the ‘predicament,” don’t you think?!

    Please go to: