June 13, 2007

Dinner conversation

Every year I help organize a conference in the beginning of June. It takes some effort, hence the blogging gap. The meeting went really well this year.
Saturday night I was eating dinner. There happened to be a lot of women at the table including a Professor from a leading California University, and another man, a Danish salesman. The Professor had a lot of interesting things to say, like when they advertise a faculty position only 10% of the applicants are women, although over half of their students are female. She said that the women applicants are all good, but that a third of the male applicants can be thrown out right away. No chance at all. The women are better at self-selecting.
The salesman on my left nudged me with his elbow. 'Smart men know when to keep their mouths shut,' he said.
The Professor said how most women scientists are married to men who are scientists, whereas male scientists tend to have mates outside of science. Thus the famous 'two body problem': its nearly impossible to find one faculty position in your field, much less two, so the story goes. But the professor said this was a myth. She and her husband had no trouble finding jobs at the same university.
The salesman told me that what the women scientists should do was marry bricklayers. I poured some more wine into his glass.
The Professor said how all of the older men in her department had been really supportive when she was on maternity leave and had two children. They were old enough to have daughters her age, who perhaps had chosen not to go into science, who may also have been dealing with the problems of career and family. They also thought kids were cute. I really liked hearing this.
The salesman told me how easy it was to spot breast implants. True story!
The professor continued saying how the good men today spent time with their kids, did the dishes, and how maybe the older men in her department regretted that they had missed this stage in thier own children's lives.
The salesman told me how he would only clean his side of the windshield, not his wife's, so when it rained she couldn't see out. The dissonance was killing me.
So anyway, I can tell you that I was really glad to hear some positive news from the equality front. Its tough for anyone to have a career, but most likely more so if you are a woman with a family. And who wouldn't want to work in a balanced workplace?


At June 17, 2007 8:35 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

speaking of dads: This morning's Washington Post had a feature:

it is called "Father knows best?" and was focused on how fathers are likely to make stuff up at museums when asked difficult questions by their children. I thought I was reading the onion.

they should follow my policy of always answering a question with a question, then there is no chance of being ridiculed by the museum staff.

At June 22, 2007 7:35 PM , Anonymous Annie said...

They did a study awhile ago and gave 2 groups a puzzle that was impossible to solve. The men quickly blamed the puzzle. The women all blamed themselved.

At June 25, 2007 9:30 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

I will occasionally make up flawed answers to see if our kids can spot them, to teach critical thinking. I hated it when Dad did that. Sometimes it took decades to uncover the lies.

At June 29, 2007 7:12 PM , Anonymous Annie said...

I usually fess up when the kids ask 'is that really true?' There was one question I could never resist making up answer for - when we would cruise up 35W, the kids would ask where the other cars were going. It seemed like such a ridiculous question and it was so fun to make up answers. I'm sure that they too will be tramatized once they realize that we don't really know where everyone else is going. Maybe they've already realized it.


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