Women go into science careers more often in countries without gender equality

[Note:  This item comes from friend Steve Schear.  DLH]

Women go into science careers more often in countries without gender equality
Boys are confident they can do science even if they’re not especially good at it.
Feb 19 2018

A large number of social factors have discouraged women from pursuing careers in science and technology. But in a number of countries, an increasingly egalitarian view of gender differences has been associated with rising math and science scores for girls. However, that change hasn’t been followed by increased participation in science and tech careers; in fact, the frequency of women pursuing degrees in these areas is often higher in societies that are far from egalitarian.

Two researchers, Gijsbert Stoet of the UK and David Geary in the US, decided to explore this paradoxical trend. Their analysis suggests that the situation may be the product of a complex mixture of relative talents, general confidence, and social factors. The results drive home that, if we want to attract and retain some of the best talent in the sciences, it’s going to take more than simply ensuring they have equal access to advanced degrees.

Global testing

Stoet and Geary’s research relies on a lot of publicly available information. One of the keys to this work is the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which gives standardized tests to students around the world. The most recent iteration of these tests was given to about half a million students in a total of 71 countries and, so, provides a trans-national measure of students’ skills in math, science, and reading comprehension. Critically, when it came to science, the PISA survey also asked about students’ interest in and enjoyment of science, as well as if they felt confident they could do some basic scientific analysis without supervision.

To understand the context of a country’s test scores, the two researchers also obtained information on gender gaps in different countries from the World Economic Forum, educational data from UNESCO, and the overall life satisfaction in the country from the United Nations Development Programme.

Overall, the data showed that the gender gap in science is pretty small among the children tested. While boys outperformed girls in science in 22 countries, girls came out on top in 19. There was no clear relationship between these results and a country’s gender equality.

But things got complicated when Stoet and Geary looked at each student’s relative strengths. This involved averaging their scores for all three subject areas, then comparing the score in each subject to the average to identify the student’s strongest subject. Thus, someone could be below average overall but still have math be their strongest subject or could be well above average in reading comprehension yet be relatively better with science. Among boys, it is far more common to have science be their strongest subject—this was true in every country but two (Lebanon and Romania are the outliers), which means it was also true in most of those 19 countries where girls on average outperformed boys on the science test.

In math, this analysis favored boys in every single country; in reading, the converse is true, with girls coming out on top in every single country. As a result, even in situations where girls outperformed boys in science, they typically outperformed them in reading by an even larger margin.

Relative strength

It might seem that this alone could account for the relatively low percentage of women pursuing a career in science and technology—but it doesn’t. In every single country, the percentage of women getting degrees in relevant fields was lower than the percentage who had science or math as their strongest subject. So, even if people were being drawn to get degrees in the areas they were best at, it wouldn’t explain the gender gap among the graduates.



‘I took my wife’s name – and then the hassle began’

‘I took my wife’s name – and then the hassle began’
When three men told us why they took their wife’s last name, other readers got in touch to share their experiences. Here two of them explain how it turned out to be way more difficult than they had imagined.
Feb 19 2018

‘My boss refuses to accept my new name’

Wayne Harding, né Nell: I married my wife Debbie in July 2016 and changing my name from mine – Nell – to hers – Harding – caused a big stir among my family and at work. The decision was a no-brainer for me. Debbie has a daughter from a previous relationship and we wanted her to have the same name as the rest of the family. I remember my stepdaughter saying to me that she didn’t want to go to school with a different name, and I completely understood how she felt. 

I am South African and most of my family still live there and weren’t able to fly over to Cyprus, where we had our wedding. I didn’t mention my plans to change my name – I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was only when I changed my name on Facebook that my dad and my brother found out. They weren’t happy. “It’s just a name really, Dad, it’s not the end of the world,” I said to him on the phone. He told me it was the biggest slap in the face for him and the family. “It really cuts deep, son,” he messaged me later.

But the most surprising reaction came from my workplace. I am a property manager, I deal with about 100 leaseholders living in blocks of flats. When one of my bosses discovered I had changed my name he said I should have consulted him first because it could cause repercussions for the business and its clients. He said people would assume I was in a same-sex marriage and that I would need to make it clear in my email signature that I had married a woman. It was offensive and I felt like he had singled me out.

Apparently they had complaints – although nobody ever said anything to me directly. Eventually the HR manager told me to take that explanation out of my email signature because it was unnecessary. My boss still refuses to accept my new name and insists on using my maiden name instead. 

When I changed my name at the bank there were problems too. “We’ve never done a guy before,” said the bank teller in disbelief. The branch manager had to speak to me and then he had to call head office to check changing my name was something they were allowed to do. We spent about 20 minutes discussing it all but eventually it got sorted out.

Surnames seem to matter more to the older generation and I am seen as someone who has broken tradition – but look at the Queen. I had to do a Life in the UK Test to get my citizenship in 2000 and one of the questions was about Elizabeth II keeping her surname, Windsor, while Prince Philip dropped his paternal name and changed it to his mother’s, Mountbatten. A lot of British people don’t know that. 

It isn’t the first time I have changed my name. My first name is actually Terrence, Wayne is my middle name, but when I immigrated over to the UK in 2000 I quickly adopted Wayne because Terrence tended to be shortened by British people to Terry, and I didn’t like it. My dad said it upsets him that he can’t call me TW (Terrence Wayne) any more. We don’t talk much but he tends to bring it up whenever we do. 

My father-in-law says he is really proud of me and what a nice thing it was for me to do that for his daughter. I’m sorry it has upset my own family, but I don’t regret my decision.


Former CIA Chief Admits US Meddling In Foreign Elections “For Their Own Good”

Note:  This item comes from friend Steve Schear.  DLH]

Former CIA Chief Admits US Meddling In Foreign Elections “For Their Own Good”
By Tyler Durden
Feb 17 2018

Former CIA chief James Woolsey appeared on Fox News to push the narrative of how dastardly ‘dem Russkies’ are in their meddling with the sacred soul of America’s democracy.

Woolsey did his patriotic deep-state-duty and proclaimed the evils of “expansionist Russia” and dropped ‘facts’ like “Russia has a larger cyber-army than its standing army,” before he moved on to China and its existential threats.

But then, beginning at around 4:30, the real debacle of the conversation begins as Ingraham asks Woolsey,

“Have we ever tried to meddle in other countries’ elections?”

Hes responds, surprisingly frankly…

“Oh probably… but it was for the good of the system…”

To which Ingraham follows up…

“We don’t do that now though? We don’t mess around in other people’s elections?”

Prompting this extraordinary sentence from a former CIA chief…

“Well…hhhmmm, numm numm numm numm… only for a very good cause…in the interests of democracy”

So just to clarify – yes, the CIA chief admitted that Democracy-spreading ‘Murica meddled in the Democratic elections of other nations “in the interests of democracy.”

In case you wondered which ones he was referring to, here’s a brief selection since 1948…

2016: UK (verbal intervention against Brexit)
2014: Afghanistan (effectively re-writing Afghan constitution)
2014: UK (verbal intervention against Scottish independence)
2011: Libya (providing support to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi)
2009: Honduras (ousting President Zelaya)
2006: Palestine (providing support to oust Prime Minister Haniyeh)
2005: Syria (providing support against President al-Assad)
2003: Iran (providing support against President Khatami)-
2003: Iraq (ousting of President Hussein)
2002: Venezuela (providing support to attempt an overthrow of President Chavez)
1999: Yugoslavia (removing Yugoslav forces from Kosovo)
1994: Iraq (attempted overthrow of President Hussein)
1991: Haiti (ousting President Aristide)
1991: Kuwait (removing Iraqi forces from Kuwait)
1989: Panama (ousting General Noriega)


The NY Times Fires Tech Writer Quinn Norton, and It’s Complicated

The NY Times Fires Tech Writer Quinn Norton, and It’s Complicated
By Adam Rodgers
Feb 14 2018

Tuesday afternoon, The New York Times announced it was hiring an opinion writer named Quinn Norton to write about “the power, culture, and consequences of technology.” Late Tuesday night, the Times fired her.

Norton, a writer-activist who covered, among other things, the Occupy and Anonymous movements for WIRED in the 2000s, has been an outspoken voice for hackers, the open-source and free-speech communities, and people working on digital security and privacy. She has been a chronicler and target of harassment online and in the physical world, and she was the romantic partner and friend of Aaron Swartz, the renowned coder and activist who committed suicide in the face of a federal investigation of his activities. Norton knows the field, in other words.

But even as congratulations-Twitter spun up for Norton, detective-Twitter did a double-take. People resurfaced old tweets in which Norton employed derogatory terms for African Americans and gay people—words I find difficult to even type, frankly, about which more in a moment—and writing where she evinced friendships with well-known neo-Nazis. This took all of a couple hours, and I’ve been on enough HR-related conference calls to imagine what kinds of meetings people at the Timeswere having: How did we miss this, does it matter, is she racist or is she just using racist words, we hired her because she’s connected and complicated…

Arguably one of the world’s experts on the ebb and flow of online communities, Norton didn’t exactly try to defend herself. The use of—oy, find me a better way to say this than “the N-word,” but OK—was part of an ill-conceived retweet of John Perry Barlow, who was trying to make a point about racists. Those similarly foreclosed-upon words referring to gay people were sometimes, Norton said, because she herself has been active in the queer community and were covered by in-group privilege, and sometimes because she was code-switching to the language of 4chan and other online groups that use vile epithets like cooks use salt.

Complicated. And, as Norton is a journalist covering free-speech and privacy issues online, maybe this kind of language isn’t just allowed but appropriate. She’s speaking the language of the people she writes about.

But what about the friends-with-Nazis thing?

In particular, Norton had defended Andrew Auernheimer, a hacker (who wrote an opinion piece for WIRED in 2012) and went to prison in 2013. Upon his release about a year later, Auernheimer said that he was also a white supremacist and anti-Semite.

Everyone is redeemable, Norton explained, and silence or disengagement make racism worse. She pointed to an article she posted on Medium about talking to racists as part of fighting the good fight against them, but also keeping open the lines of communication—as opposed to just, you know, punching Nazis.

Anyway, the Times compounded its apparent lack of due diligence with surrender to the mob, and fired her. Here’s the official statement from James Bennet, the editor of the editorial page: “Despite our review of Quinn Norton’s work and our conversations with her previous employers, this was new information to us. Based on it, we’ve decided to go our separate ways.”

A few journalists, including a crowd of current and former WIRED staffers whom I greatly respect, criticized the decision. As my colleague Steven Levy wrote, “She’s no racist or Nazi sympathizer. She’s a smart edgy writer whose tweets are too easily taken out of context.” They described her as a complicated, forceful voice for the underrepresented—for women, for people of color, for the poor and the technologically disenfranchised.

Those he-saids got she-saided by anti-Nazi hardliners (a phrase I did not know I would need, because, come on) and, especially, women of color. In Norton’s writing they saw a bad-faith ally.


Women could be the undoing of Donald Trump

[Note:  This item comes from friend Shannon McElyea.  DLH]

Women could be the undoing of Donald Trump
Many of the cultural clashes the president has engineered work to his advantage. Not this one
Feb 17 2018

IF DEMOCRATIC strategists could build a candidate for Pennsylvania’s sixth congressional district, she would probably look something like Chrissy Houlahan. A 50-year-old former air-force captain, entrepreneur and chemistry teacher with Teach for America, Mrs Houlahan appears, crucially, to have been none of those impressive things for political effect. Until recently she had not contemplated running for anything. And if she had, she says, speaking on the fringe of a small gathering of voters in Valley Forge, a wealthy suburb northwest of Philadelphia, she would have considered herself unsuitable: “I’m a very private person and have never asked anything from anyone before.” The Damascene moment that brought her, and hundreds of Democratic women candidates like her, on to the campaign trail was Donald Trump’s election. “I was raised to respect democracy,” she says. “But I felt on this occasion the people had got it wrong.”

While struggling to reassure her gay daughter and Holocaust-survivor father, both of whom questioned whether America was still safe for them, Mrs Houlahan sent her CV to Emily’s List, an organisation that tries to get pro-choice women elected. It seemed like the best way to honour her family motto, “Highest, best use”—meaning, she explains, “Do the hardest thing you can to make best use of your abilities.” Calm, purposeful, but with a hint of her old diffidence, Mrs Houlahan is now working her tail off to flip a district whose Republican incumbent, Ryan Costello, romped home in 2016, but which chose Hillary Clinton over Mr Trump. There are 23 such districts, mostly dominated by the sorts of cautious suburban conservatives who live in Valley Forge. If the Democrats win them, in mid-term elections that are traditionally a referendum on the president, they will probably take back the House of Representatives.

Amid the rancour of American politics, the large number of first-time women candidates the Democrats will field is unequivocally positive. Around 400 women, mostly Democrats, are planning to run for the House, at least 50 for the Senate and 79 for governor. That is far more than have previously stood for any of those offices. At state and local levels, the picture is the same. In 2015 and 2016 around 900 women consulted Emily’s List about standing for office; since Mr Trump’s election, over 26,000 have.

That such numbers are extraordinary is in part testament to how far America lags on this issue. Less than 20% of members of the current House of Representatives are women. That puts America 99th in an international ranking of women’s representation. This is despite a couple of previous “years of the women”, as the current cycle is inevitably being called. The most recent, 1992, saw a smaller spike in women candidates—as now, mainly on the left—sparked by the chauvinist handling of Anita Hill, who had accused Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, during his confirmation hearing. In turn, this led to a rise in the number of congresswomen. But it has since levelled off because of rising barriers to entry, including a decline in the number of competitive seats and soaring campaign costs, which are especially forbidding to political outsiders.

To generate a new surge, that example suggested, was likely to require another high-profile case of chauvinism. Mr Trump provided so many, both in his private behaviour and his behaviour towards Mrs Clinton, that over 2m women marched in protest the day after his inauguration. The #MeToo meme has since turned the marches into a grander cultural movement. And still Mr Trump keeps doubling down. In the past week he has defended a senior aide and alleged wife-beater, Rob Porter, and also suggested the backlash against sexual harassment has gone too far. Of the many culture clashes America’s patriarch-in-chief has engineered over the past year—with black footballers, Hispanic migrants, transgender soldiers and other emblems of the socioeconomic changes his supporters fear—this is by far the riskiest.


Nuclear risk at its highest since Cuban missile crisis, says ex-energy secretary

Nuclear risk at its highest since Cuban missile crisis, says ex-energy secretary
Nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz says world has been lucky to avoid accidental weapon launch – and risk is growing
By Julian Borger
Feb 16 2018

The world has been lucky so far to escape the launch of nuclear weapons through miscalculation, but the odds of such a catastrophic accident are increasing, according to the former US energy secretary Ernest Moniz.

Moniz, a nuclear physicist who played a central role in securing a landmark non-proliferation agreement with Iran in 2015, said the margin for error in avoiding disaster was getting thinner because of the introduction of new, smaller weapons, the broadening of circumstances in which their use is being contemplated, and a lack of high-level communications between major nuclear weapons powers.

As a result, Moniz told the Guardian, the chance of nuclear use “is higher than it’s been since the Cuban missile crisis”.

Moniz, who is now CEO and co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, pointed to a recent false alarm by Hawaii’s public alert system as the sort of technological glitch that could lead to fatal miscalculation. The alert sent islanders running for cover, and it took nearly 40 minutes for the mistake to be rectified.

“Thirty-eight minutes is substantially longer than the decision time that President Trump or President Putin or other leaders with nuclear weapon states would have for a response to a warning about significant incoming missiles,” Moniz said.

“We know we’ve had those warnings many times in history and we’ve managed so far to dodge the bullet,” he said. “But dodging the bullets is more difficult when there’s not significant communications going on and a lot of tensions between the countries.”

Both the US and the Soviet Union came close to launching their nuclear weaponsseveral times over the course of the cold war because technical glitches or faulty analysis gave the false impression they were under imminent attack. 

Moniz said the risks of miscalculation had been further heightened by two elements of the Trump administration’s nuclear posture review, published earlier this month. 

The review calls for the development of a low-yield submarine-launched missile, which critics say risks being seen by generals and political leaders as more “usable” than megaton thermonuclear weapons. 

The same criticism is made of plans, inherited from the Obama administration, to spend $10bn modernising another tactical nuclear weapon, the B61 gravity bomb. 

In a new report this week, the NTI warned that the weapons may be useless as a deterrent and constitute a potentially catastrophic security liability.

Trump’s nuclear posture review also expands the conditions in which the US might consider using its nuclear arsenal to include devastating attacks on infrastructure, including cyber-attacks.

“The use of a new class of submarine-launched smaller weapons seems to us to just add to the issues of miscalculation,” Moniz said. The former head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department added that widening the conditions of nuclear use to include cyber-attack was particularly worrisome as it is rarely absolutely clear who was responsible for such attacks.

“A major infrastructure cyber-attack could not be a nationally endorsed attack at all. It could be from some third-party hackers who might enjoy a nuclear exchange between the two major powers,” he said. 

Moniz said the world had been even luckier so far to have been spared a terrorist dirty bomb attack, in which conventional explosives are used to spread radioactive material over a wide area. 

“The consequences are less [than a nuclear detonation] but the probabilities are much higher,” Moniz said.


Fix Democracy, First

Fix Democracy, First
By Lawrence Lessig
Feb 17 2018

What follows is the text for my 7m (or so) speech at the #UNRIG conference in New Orleans at the beginning of the month. What is above is the video. Still struggling to do this well. Responses requested and accepted with gratitude.
None of us want to be here.

I don’t mean literally. This is New Orleans, and I’m sharing a stage with Jennifer Lawrence, and my hero, Buddy Roemer, so don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty happy to be here.

But none of us want to have to be here.

None of us want to be living in a democracy where our first fight has got to be about that democracy.

Because all of us believe that there are real things, important things, substantive things that this democracy must do. But can’t do now.

Some of us want it to address climate change. Finally.

Some of us want it to fight the inequality shot through our society — from the hopelessness of steelworkers in Ohio and Michigan, to the mother barely able to provide for her kids while working two jobs, every single day. This is America, and that just is not right.

Some of us want it to kickstart an economy stuck in stall — where middle class wages just hover, they don’t rise, while productivity and corporate profits just rise and rise and rise. For two generations, 50% of Americans have seen no growth in their income. Last year, 1% of Americans captured 82% of the wealth that this economy created.

Whatever the issue, what we know — what we, who are here know — is that we won’t address any of those issues, or a million others issues, sensibly, until we fix this democracy first.

This we all know.

What we don’t know is how to do it. I don’t mean what changes we need to make. We know that. We’re pretty good about that. I mean: how do we get America to take up the fight to take back our democracy?

That begins by speaking an obvious truth: They don’t represent us.

When congressmen spend 30 to 70 percent of their time sucking up to no more than 100k rich people, they don’t represent us. They represent them.

When safe-seat gerrymandering makes congressmen care only about the fringes from their own party — because only an even more extreme Democrat or extreme Republican could ever challenge them — they don’t represent us. They represent them.

When the President gets elected with a system that concentrates campaigns in a dozen battlegrounds states — states that represent just 35% of America, and an America that is older and whiter than America as a whole — we know that president can’t represent us. We know that he represents them.

They don’t represent us. And that’s true whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, whether you are from Montana or North Carolina, whether you’re old or not yet old, whatever your race. Whatever your sex. Whatever, whatever, whatever: They don’t represent us.

That truth is step one.

Step two is to use that truth — a truth already believed by practically every American — to build a different kind of political movement. A political movement that steps to the side and above partisan politics.

All across America there are thousands who have been inspired by Reverend Barber and the Moral Monday Movement. Those thousands — tens of thousands — go from community to community, and say, how could we possibly disagree. Black citizens travel to KKK country, and sitting at the kitchen tables of men whose fathers burned crosses, they ask, “how could we possibly disagree?” And from that question — a question with only one answer — the Moral Monday Movement is building a movement that will knit America together. Not again. But for the first time ever—just maybe.

We need a moral movement here too. We need a movement that doesn’t just hang in DC, but like Granny D, gets citizens to walk with citizens, and to see that on this, we are not divided. We are united.

And then step three: We must turn those citizens to our leaders — to the people we elect to represent us — and tell them, if you want our leaders, you must commit to fixing this, first.

Because at some point, we must draw a line of integrity across the ground that stands before us, and ask, on which side do you stand?