Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, Weekend Edition – 10.4

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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33 Comments

  1. I hate getting survey results without knowing the conditons and quality of the survey. Without all the datapoints it is challenging to know how much credibility the numbers have.

    I also have heard that 9 out of 10 dentists prefer me to chew Trident gum…( http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NineOutOfTenDoctorsAgree )

    That being said:

    Is this a young woman issue or an ‘anything other than a caucasian male’ issue?

    Granted that the survey was targeted at women, but to me, the interesting statistic is the proportion of any group in any profession as that relates to their proportion in the population.

    Here are some interesting statistics:

    Women were 12% of those in nonacademic S&E occupations in 1980 and 26% in 2005.

    Women are a higher proportion of nonacademic S&E occupations at the doctoral level, increasing from about 23% in 1990 to 31% in 2005.

    The proportion of blacks in nonacademic S&E occupations increased from less than 3% in 1980 to 5% in 2005. The proportion of Hispanics increased from 2% to 5% in 2005.

    At the doctoral level, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives combined represented just over 4% of employment in nonacademic S&E occupations in 1990, rising to 6% in 2005.

    Admittedly one would hope to see the number against their %age of the population have parity, but in the absence of that, is not the trend moving in the desired direction?

  2. I think we need a lot more scientists and engineers. Women, men, all races. We are begining to see the largest mass retirement in history. With the leading edge of the boomers leaving, all professions are going to see a drop.

  3. I’d say the image of science and technology as a whole could use a brush-up.

    And I have to say this: Stephen Hawking is awesome:

    I am discounting reports of UFOs, of course – my main reason for this being, why would they appear only to cranks and weirdos?

  4. Why do ~1/3 of women want to be models? Ignoring the fact that the number of young men wanting work outside STEM (Science, Technonlogy, Engineering and Maths) has been completely over looked AND the fact the number of young women who want to be housewives when they grow up isn’t mentioned.

    Aspiring to be a model is surely better than aspiring to be a housewife? Its not that long ago most girls really did aspire to be good wives.

    Modelling, rightly or wrongly, is essentially thought of as being paid a lot of money for doing basically nothing, while getting to jet-set around the world at other people’s expense. Without much mental effort to boot.

    Whereas working in STEM hard and the rewards are little better than being a Trappist Monk:

    The first hurdle is Uni, followed by Grad school which requires a herculian effort as the competition for jobs is so intense that anything less than high 2:1 is worthless. That should saddle you with a £30,000 debt.

    Next is the trial by fire that is being a junior researcher/post-doc trying to get by on a salary lower than that of McDonald’s staff (~£12,000), trying to get something, anything, published in the hopes that you can get a slightly better position or industrial job, where you’ll get paid less than a Van Driver (£18,000).

    Contracts are the order of the day, so there are no pensions or benifits or job security (I myself have been made redundant TWICE this year), so buying a house is out of the question (low pay and no job security make jobing scientists the lowest of sub-prime).

    The truth is that a small country like Britain (the US may be different) produces around 20 times as many scientists as are needed hence the crap job conditions.

    The training is long and hard, the work low paid (if you can get it) and unsecure, the rewards essentially bear-survival wages. The only positives are knowing you’re the smartest guy on the bus (forget car ownership on scientist salary) and the small army of students to treat like slaves.

    Why not be a model?

  5. I love the Tiktaalik cartoon. Neil Shubin’s book about it was good, although I found myself wishing he’d write another version aimed at readers with a stronger scientific education. I don’t mean that to be elitist, it’s just that if you can read Dawkins, Gould, E.O. Wilson, etc., “Your Inner Fish” can seem a little simplistic.

    Still, it really does have its moments. Here’s one, directly related to the cartoon’s point:

    “What do we make of the one bone–two bones–lotsa blobs–digits plan that Owen attributed to a Creator? Some fish, for example the lungfish, have the one bone at the base. Other fish, for example Eusthenopteron, have the one bone–two bones arrangement. Then there are creatures like Tiktaalik, with one bone–two bones–lotsa blobs. There isn’t a single fish inside of our limbs; there is a whole aquarium. Owen’s blueprint was assembled in fish.”
    –Neil Shubin, “Your Inner Fish”

  6. @russellsugden:

    Its a study of women. It is proper to ‘overlook’ men in a study of women, no?

    The number of women who chose housewife is mentioned. I guess you didn’t look at the study.

    Assuming that modeling is essentially getting paid a lot of money for doing basically nothing, which it is not, I would suggest that anyone that has followed the path you describe to compete for job that isn’t there and has no rewards would suggest that although he/she may be the smartest guy on the bus, it is only because the models, who have spent less time in school and have achieved the financial wins for no effort, are blowing by you in their jet-setting cars.

  7. i luv stephen hawking 4 ever! i wish he was by bfffff! i can’t wait for his new book! i also love cosmo except for the fact that they mark up their subscription like 300% to send to the u.s. :( and hasn’t hawking been stressing this for like, i don’t know, forever? not exactly breaking news, by any standard, but nevertheless as important as ever!!! anyone interested in this story or in stephen hawking in zero g will definitely enjoy this: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/peter_diamandis_on_stephen_hawking_in_zero_g.html

  8. Although critical thinking is, for me, one of the great challenges in life, I think I’m with Doctor Phil (BA, that is) on this one.

    @russellsugden:

    I don’t want to sound like some old curmudgeon, even though that is almost precisely what I’ve become — oh woe is me, in ten days I’m 53 ;) — but I think being a housewife, particularily if you are also raising and nurturing progeny, would be a much more ethical and morally sound “career” than being a model.

    From one perspective it could be said that models represent and help promote empty vanity as a meaningful goal, they seem to promote starvation as being a sexy, honourable career and lifestyle choice, and almost certainly encourage women of all ages to place great value on the vacuous superficiality of fashion.

    But moms are Moms! Moms help forge new generations of potential scientists, engineers, doctors, and so on.

    Now, perhaps I am being a teensy weensy bit tongue-in-cheek, but only with the playfulness of my diction. In all seriousness I think models, and the fashion industry they help maintain, are very much an ethically questionable phenomenon. Whereas moms as represented by housewives can play a fundamental role in a healthy future for all of humanity.

    By the way, I’m most admantly not being an old sock and saying women should stay at home cookin’, cleanin’, and housewifin’. I’m just highlighting the good side of housewifery and Momhood.

  9. @Gabrielbrawley: Perhaps 40 years ago or if you were the head of a division.

    Since the expansion of the 1960’s, more has definatly ment worse. Grade inflation means that a Degree is about equivalent to a High School Leaving Certificate.

    Also, there has been a push to increase the number of “scientifically educated” people in the populace (believe it or not HGM is aiming for 30% of the population to have a BSc and 50% overall to have a degree) so the country turns out hundreds of thousands of half-trained (i.e. good at literature studies, posters, presentations, a little bit of science but don’t know one end of a pipette from the other) science graduates to fill a small number of jobs.

    Britain doesnt have a space programme but graduates more Physics and Astro-Physics Students and PhD’s than America and Russia combined! Half, HALF of Chemistry Graduates leave chemistry immediately after uni to work in finance (though not any more!) because there aren’t enough chemistry jobs availible for those graduating and they can do sums (well, at least thats what they claim)

  10. Girls prefer model or actress to scientist? No kidding. They’re both considered glamour occupations, and the income potential is huge. Show me a 33-something scientist who made even half as much as 33-year-old Angelina Jolie made last year.

  11. @ Ken Hahn – I agree with you about Shubin and “Inner Fish” but as it is, I found it one of the most compelling arguments for evolution I’ve read that could be read and enjoyed by many of those who don’t have a strong background in science. The finding of Tiktaalik where and when it should have been, based on what evolution would predict, was a huge success story in science! Another good example of how evolution works and intelligent design doesn’t.

    This may have been posted before but if not, it might bring a chuckle, speaking of ID:

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1276#comic

  12. @DMS: Just remember that that poll came up with what I consider “generalizations.”

    For example, one of my daughters wanted to be (in this order) a paleontologist, a forensic scientist, a medical doctor, and finally a criminologist/sociologist. The last two became her double major in Honors college and she is how a grad student in that field.

    So yeah, MANY girls may want to be models, but SOME girls never even thought about it and go into the sciences or other “heavy-duty” fields.

    Then again, the other daughter wanted to be a ballerina and became an art teacher. It remains to be seen which is the exception that proves the rule… :-D

    P.S. SicPreFix: You’re not the only “Senior” here – I’m only two years behind you. ;-)

  13. @SicPreFix:

    Lets not forget those women who have had a career put on perma-hold due to the housewife career move of having kids. That one knocked my science-wife from one category to the next.

    Its not even close in terms of which is more meaningful and demanding (it pays pretty well too!)

  14. I’m not quite sure how to phrase what I want to say here, but here it goes: Could the girls that chose model for their future profession be hoping that they are “pretty enough” to become a model?

    I volunteer as a docent at a local art museum and a few years ago we had a large exhibit of Japanese photographs. At the training for the exhibit the curator showed us a photo taken by a woman and she (the curator) told us it was a critique on “elevator girls.” These girls work in elevators at department stores and announce is a sing-song voice what departments were available on each floor. According to the curator many girls and women, even if they have no interest in becoming an elevator girl, often wonder if they would be pretty enough to become one.

    I just wonder if this is the same forces at work here.

  15. I’m not quite sure how to phrase what I want to say here, but here it goes: Could the girls that chose model for their future profession be hoping that they are “pretty enough” to become a model?

    I volunteer as a docent at a local art museum and a few years ago we had a large exhibit of Japanese photographs. At the training for the exhibit the curator showed us a photo taken by a woman and she (the curator) told us it was a critique on “elevator girls.” Basically, very attractive girls work in elevators at department stores and announce is a sing-song voice what departments were available on each floor. According to the curator many girls and women, even if they have no interest in becoming an elevator girl, often wonder if they would be pretty enough to become one.

    I just wonder if this is the same forces at work here.

  16. @russellsugden: “Why not be a model?”

    Well, being a housewife is pretty much something that most any woman CAN do. Being a fashion (not fetish/pron) model is something that probably .5% of the people asked could actually be considered for. So there’s a whole lot of delusion going on there.

    More like “why wouldn’t a deluded girl who doesn’t understand that not only does it take having a rare genetic situation, but also that photos in fashion magazines are not accurate representations of the actual work that went into said photos, want to have the job title that she perceives to be a symbol of status?”

  17. Even though we’re all transitional fossils, I’ve always liked creatures that way-look like transitional fossils: like tiktaalik and platypus.

    But you know who often gets overlooked, and I’ve always thought had a distinct in-between look? The Mudskipper. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudskipper) It’s a fish, that is fully amphibious, and has cool-looking arms, no doubt usefull for pointing out which way the beach is. It can pull itself out of whatever pool of water it is in and drag it’s body to another one, much the same way that the first amphibions might have.

  18. @PopeCoyote:

    Yes, I didn’t stress enough how very good the book is at the introductory level.

    I don’t think I could get anyone in my family (essentially zero science education) to read much of “Climbing Mount Improbable,” for example, before they were lost and/or bored.

    But I could see them maybe getting through “Your Inner Fish” — At least enough of it to understand the part that you mentioned about the successful predictions. And that’s the most important part.

    I don’t mean to insult my own family in this example. They may not know all the evidence for evolution, but at least they’re not creationists!

  19. @The Bad Astronomer:
    I suppose the other factor is whether the poll was a fantasy choice or some form of real occupational choice study. So I’m guessing most girls who are not quite good in their school classes are not likely to even see being a scientist as an option as opposed to the girls who think they are good looking enough to pull off a modeling career.

    If it’s a fantasy choice I’d opt for being a very successful model that has science interests on the side. I mean if model/scientist blows an experiment he/she can run off to the south of France and be much better dressed while doing it.

  20. James: A good point. I’d probably have answered “rock star”, but that didn’t stop me becoming a (male) scientist. The issue with models, of course, is that most models are vacuous semi-anorexic coked-up clothes-racks (not that I’m stereotyping, you understand). I suspect that what girls actually mean when they say that they want to be a model is that they want to be grow up to be glamorous and famous – a fantasy understandably shared by many people of all ages and sexes.

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