At the superbowl party at my house last weekend, most folks didn't really have a stake in who won. But several friends were rooting for Pittsburg to loose, largely due to their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. In case you don't pay attention to sports news (like me), Roethlisberger was twice accused of rape/sexual assault in the last two years. When folks were talking about it, I foolishly said something along the lines of, "well, what were the cirumstances of the rape?"
In my defense, I was just trying to get more details, but it came off as an attempt to minimize. All of this is to say that I'm more or less a moron when it comes to issues of gender inequality. I'm a middle-class, white male from liberal Santa Cruz,CA - all of my knowledge of discrimination (of any sort) is purely theoretical. I'm against discrimination, but I don't really know what it looks like.
And there's been a recent spate of gender issues cropping up recently on a lot of the blogs I read, from the (generally positive) fall-out of the women and science blogging session at ScienceOnline, to the douche-baggery of some dudes at at an atheist conference in Florida, and now a new paper in PNAS that finds sexual discrimination in science (in terms of hiring) is virtually non-existant, but that women are still held back due to other factors:
Researchers Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams from Cornell University in the US reviewed 20 years of data on gender discrimination and the status of women in the sciences. They argue that too much attention has been focused on apparent sexual discrimination when women apply for new jobs, funding or to be published in journals.
Instead, Ceci and Williams believe that women are more likely than men to make personal choices - many of which may well be constrained - that prevent them from progressing to more senior levels (eg time off to raise children, following a spouse, caring for parents). They argue that focusing on discrimination at application stages may represent a costly red herring and that resources should be redirected towards education and policy changes that reflect the challenges faced by women interested in building a long-term career in science.
The paper is available to the public for free, but I have to admit, I'm over my head. I read the paper and nodded my head at the apparent wisdom, but I don't really trust any of my opinions on the matter. None of the female science bloggers I read have covered this yet (though a couple of the male ones have) - so what about it bloggosphere?