do women read this blog?

I was fascinated by a post about science news and gender that I read this week on the Eureka Zone, a Times Online science blog.

Science research councils have increasingly encouraged their grant-holders to engage with the public about their work and for many research grants some form of public engagement is now a necessity. But whom do these scientists end up engaging?

They find–for reasons unexplained in the article–that men disproportionally read science news.

[M]en are more likely to actively choose to consume science in their free time and the bias is much greater than that seen in formal education.

They report that although half of podcast listeners are female, women make up 10-33% of science podcast listeners.  Similar trends exist for reading science news and blogs. The article does not explain why.  Perhaps there are inherent biases in how news is presented to attract men? I would be interested in a reasonable explanation.

The question is, do women read this blog? Based on the comments, I’d say yes.

I started writing this blog without gender in mind.  At some point, I made a conscious effort to occasionally write more about my personal life as a female geek (like the last two weeks, when I blogged about baking and sewing).  I did this in part to address some of the STEM stereotypes that are decidedly male (like this list–the first item assumes that the presumably male engineer has a wife), which at one time made me feel somewhat excluded from the “real” STEM community of engineer/OR geeks in my case.  I have learned learned that I do in fact belong.  I have met many geeky women who have had similar experiences.  This issue weighs heavily on me, particularly as a university professor who wants everyone to feel welcome to the OR table. I certainly hope everyone feels welcome at this blog.

I don’t want this blog to be a blog just for women, but I wholeheartedly support other female bloggers in the sciences, operations research or otherwise:

8 responses to “do women read this blog?

  • Patricia Randall

    I got my MS and PhD in Industrial Engineering and was pleasantly surprised that half of the students (both graduate and undergraduate) were women. This was definitely not the case in other engineering departments, particularly the Mechanical Engineering department across the street. I also noticed that more female undergraduates were choosing to go to grad school than male undergraduates. And I think WORMS does a great job of supporting female Operation Researchers. This all gives me hope that Operations Research is seen as accessible to everyone.

    On a side note, thank you very much for including my blog in your list! Your blog and your passion for Operations Research was one of my main inspirations for starting my own blog and I appreciate your support.

  • Philip

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find the gender split of my mathematics courses (both at VCU and CNU) has been, if not 50/50, then biased somewhat towards a female advantage. That being said, I was always very entertained – and a bit disconcerted – to see that ~80% of my psychology classes (at CNU) were female, while ~80% of my economics classes were male.

    Given those anecdotes, I’ve always kind of wondered: does mathematics buck the male-heavy trend often mentioned of the physical sciences, or are my experiences just nonrepresentative?

  • Laura

    Philip, I think that your experiences sound about right–there are a lot of women in math, although fewer at the PhD level. I’m not sure what the national average is, but I bet that NSF has some good data.

  • Laura

    NSF data on math verifies that you are correct about there being many women in math. The computer science data indicates some pretty big changes over time.

  • usnamatroid

    I’m a woman in Operations Research, and I think that women are attracted to working on tangible problems within the mathematical realm. It’s known that “helping professions” are female-dominated, and I try to communicate in my classes that mathematics and particularly O.R. are helping professions too! Most of the men in my masters-level O.R. program at Stanford took jobs in finance or consulting, but I know I only wanted to work on scientific or policy applications. I did all I could to avoid solving problems in which the objective function was to maximize profit. As you might guess, then, I’m a big fan of the Doing Good with Good O.R. meme in recent INFORMS activities.

  • Laura

    Thank you for your comments usnamatroid. I, too, am a fan of the Doing Good with Good OR campaign.

  • Steph a.k.a. Frozone

    Thank you for this great blog and for those great links to other female bloggers!

    In regards to Science News, and that men seem to disproportionally read science news, the following article by Hugo Schwyzer came to mind:

    Sixteen hours per week: boys, girls, video games, and expectations

    According to the study discussed above, men have sixteen hours more free time per week than do women. Sixteen hours per week!!!! The study involved undergraduate students at Michigan State University.

    I can’t speak for all women, but I know this is true for myself as a working mother of a toddler — I’m less involved in science news and commenting on science blogs simply because I do not have the time or opportunity.

  • Laura

    Steph, Thank you for your feedback and for the link to the interesting 16 hours study.

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