Is my 2nd year coursework sexist?
See here and here and here for the background, 2014 analysis and the 2014+2015 analysis.
As part of a drive to remove the gender imbalance in the sciences the Department of Physics at Bath is involved with the AthenaSWAN program. One item of note from the analysis of the degree outcome (sorry I can't find a link for that) has a slight (and perhaps statistically insignificant) imbalance in the degree outcome and gender. So the questions I wish to address here is was the coursework I set sexist? It is heavily based on the maths of quantum physics, and was so abstract as to have, to my mind, no gender implications.
Here are three sets of graphs for the combined 2014 + 2015 cohort, for males, females and all students.
What we see:
- Our women students are more likely to submit the coursework.
- The exam mark boost attained by completing the coursework was, to a large degree, consistent for women and for men.
- The coursework is indeed gender neutral
It appears that there is a rumps in the Quantum world. At a major scientific conference (15th ICQC: conference website) the first round of invited speakers, chairs and honorary chairs were all men. Three leading women academics in the field decided to boycott the event. The conference organisers have responded and amended their list. See http://iopenshell.usc.edu/wtc/ICQC/icqc_story.html for further details.
Whatever the ins and outs of this case, it does highlight the inbuilt gender bias in science. But it also shows that there is now a fight to redress this bias. What we have to ask ourselves is, in 2014 is it really acceptable to be happy with such small steps taken to begin addressing the issues? Really by now we should expect equality and not have to strive for it. But strive we all must (unless one really is sexist in which case you may wish to rage against the dying of the light).
I will be signing the petition born from the ICQC incident here
If you want more on this case why not see what Nature think, or here for a insight into what some of the chemical community feel.
Here is a "class photo" of an invitation only conference taken some time ago:
Here are the slides I used at today's brief overview of the Physics Department's draft application for a Bronze Athena SWAN award. Any comments of suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a look at this short film.
It's crazy to think there is still great gender imbalance (a very polite term) in science in 2013. But there is. Edinburgh Chemistry are and have done great things to address key issues. Here at Bath the University is trying a few things. Here in Physics at Bath we're aiming to change things at the Departmental level to not only make the Department a better place for female physicists to work, but for all physicists to work. To this end we are about to apply for a Bronze Athena SWAN award (the, we're a bit rubbish (as is everyone else) but at least we know it and we're making plans, level). We'll soon be finishing our first draft of our application that includes al our hard statistics, but here, for you, is our Bath Physics leaky pipeline. I hope it'll look better in the future.