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Women in Science poll responses

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Sat Sep 28 18:31:02 EST 1996

In article <324C405C.371C at Helsinki.fi>, Mark.Camara at Helsinki.fi wrote:

> While I do not want to deny that there have been and still are
> gender-based problems in the academic community, I would like to caution
> against using such non-scientific sources of "evidence" to either fan
> the flames of a partially extinguished fire or to maintain the walls
> between men and women in science when we should all be working to tear
> them down.  With all due respect and at the risk of being flamed, I
> suggest that the best way for women to succeed in science and to gain
> equal footing with men is to try to de-emphasize gender in all important
> aspects of scientific endeavor, to be the best scientists they can be 
> by devoting time to their work rather than to opinion polls, to be as
> fair as human nature allows when facing any gender-based biases in
> either direction, and to stand up to INDIVIDUAL transgressions and
> transgressors whenever and wherever they appear rather than resorting to
> statistical arguments based on biased samples.


   I hope you don't interpret this as a flame, because I don't intend it
to be.  I agree with everything you write above, including the importance
of de-emphasizing gender, being the best scientist one can be, and
standing up to individual transgressions when they appear.  
   But I neither understand nor agree with the notion that this has to be
an "either/or" kind of proposition.  There is nothing in looking for or
acknowledging systematic institutional discrimination that precludes any
of your excellent suggestions.  I am getting the implication from your
post that you feel that women who are concerned about systematic or
institutionalized discrimination are somehow ignoring the "real" problem. 
I think that nothing is further from the truth. It seems to me that it can
only be to the good to increase people's awareness of the problem, and
there is a certain amount of strength that can be gained, even in fighting
"individual" transgressions, when one knows that one is not alone and
   At any rate, I fail to see how it helps anyone to set up this
cautionary false dichotomy:  that there must be a choice between your
proposed "best way" and other ways for women to "succeed in science."


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