It’s That Time Of Year Again

The National Academy of Sciences has announced its latest crop of members, and there are 16 – count ’em! 16! – women out of the 72 elected. The Chronicle of Higher Education spins this positively with the headline “16 Women Elected to National Academy of Science” and the following opening:

The National Academy of Sciences announced today the election of 72 new members, including 16 women. That’s a significant reversal from just one year ago, when only nine women were inducted, the fewest since 2001.
The record year remains 2005, when 19 women were elected.
The academy, most of whose members are white and male, says it has been trying to do better to identify qualified candidates who are women and members of minority groups underrepresented in science.

I’m more inclined to agree with L, who commented:

Why does this piece make 16/72 sound like a triumph? It is an embarrassment that the NAS continues to over-emphasize the contributions of male scientists. Are women scientists supposed to feel grateful that they did not make the same mistake as last year, even though the rates are still pathetic?

Trolls, you may now begin your whining. Feel free to choose from any of the following standardized, tiresome, sexist responses, as with last year’s post on this topic (plus a few additions to the list):

  • But we can’t have the NAS lowering its standards just to admit women/minorities!
  • What, are you proposing quotas? That wouldn’t be right! We have to have a system based on merit! Just like we have now, where all the deserving white men and the very, very, very few deserving white women and the very, very, very, very, very occasionally deserving minority man or woman gets elected in a totally unbiased process based solely on merit.
  • You are totally overreacting.
  • Are you saying the NAS should not elect men who deserve membership just so they can elect more women?
  • You are too shrill/whining/too angry. If you would be less/shrill/whiny/angry, people would be more likely to listen to you and take your argument more seriously.
  • You are too shrill/whiny/angry. I am going to stop reading you if you do not quit being so shrill/whiny/angry.
  • I am against sexism and bias and discrimination and my mother is a woman and I love her but I do not think that anything untoward is going on here.
  • Some powerful white guys are Teh Awesome and I think we can trust them to take care of things properly.
  • I would agree with you, but this data is not meaningful/reliable/relevant to the issue.
  • There aren’t any qualified women. If there were, they would be elected.
  • There will be more qualified women in the future, we just have to wait for them to filter up through the ranks.
  • There will be more qualified women in the future, we just have to wait for the old sexists to die off.

Feel free to improvise along the lines of any of those remarks. Bonus points if you come up with a new type of carping.

  1. PA
    April 30, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Not to troll, but what how does 16/72 compare to the ratio of women scientists eligible for selection to the National Academy?
    I honestly don’t have even an educated guess at the answer to that one, and I’m not saying that there isn’t a potential bias, but I’d like to have a sense of just how serious this is. If 25% of the eligible candidates are women, it might not look so bad for the academy. If 50% are women, then there is obviously a real problem.

  2. BiophysicsMonkey
    April 30, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    On the up side, one of the 16 is my former postdoc adviser.

  3. Jim Thomerson
    April 30, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Well, I’m a white male and did not get selected, so I’m doing my part. I can think of several female colleagues who have a better shot at it than I ever would.

  4. Thomas M.
    April 30, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    I must say that I agree with PA’s sentiments. Can we have some stats that give an estimate of just how much of a problem this is?

  5. Thomas M.
    April 30, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    bsci: Thank you for addressing my question. I’m sure other things play into the equation too(number of publications, importance of those publications within their given field, etc.). However, if women (on average) have to work harder to achieve tenure than men it does follow that those women would probably have done as much or more than the men in the relevant fields required to get into the NAS. Thus, the percentage of women should certainly be higher than it currently is.
    I wish to clarify my position, lest it be taken for trolling by other commenters: I’m not denying that sexism plays a part in the selection process; I’m sure it does to at *least* a small extent. I just don’t like the idea of claiming (or implying) that a large number of women are being denied positions in the NAS for that reason without some sources to back it up, or at least an attempt to analyze the situation, rather than just making such a claim.

  6. May 11, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Yeah, I noticed the numbers. Did not read the article in the Chronicle, but don’t need to. I can count. In fact I think I gave them more credit just trying to guess from the names- about 6 of them were ambiguous, so I guessed a max of 22.
    But looking at your review from the last couple of years, 22 would have been a real triumph.
    Oh well.
    Anyway Zuska, thanks for keeping up the anger and rightful indignation. Sometimes I don’t know how you do it. This kind of stuff just makes me depressed.

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