It's spring (well, it's almost summer now) and if I haven't mentioned it before, that means three things: gardening, allergies, and, of course, migraines. (Virtually everything in my life means migraines.) I've had plenty of things I've wanted to yammer about, but when I've been feeling reasonably well, I've been out in the garden.
Desperate readers may sate themselves with comments I left on posts here and here. One of them actually has to do with the title of this post.
Last week's Chronicle of Higher Education had a nice little piece about three women in chemistry who have been influential in working to change the dismal state of affairs in that profession: Debra Rolison, Geraldine Richmond, and Donna J. Nelson. They did a little Q&A with each woman. Here is an excerpt from Debra Rolison's, which will illustrate quite clearly why she is totally my hero:
Q. You're not shy about saying what you think regarding the paucity of women in academic science. Why have you decided to use such an in-your-face approach, even if it puts some people off?
A. The original title of my uppity-woman talk was: "Isn't a Millennium of Affirmative Action for White Men Sufficient?" At Argonne [National Laboratory], there was a very distinguished female physicist who has also seen so little change over such a long time. She said, If the title weren't quite so confrontational we might get more men in the audience, and they're the ones who really need to hear this talk. I said: I've given that thought and I could cut down on the confrontation and make it something like, why we need more women in science. But that's not going to get their asses into the seats in the auditorium either. I think we've had far too many of the helpful, educational approaches. We don't have 30 years here.
Q. Why do you think it is a good idea to use Title IX to investigate gender bias in academic science?
A. ...To get the attention of people who can completely reshuffle things, you just turn off the money. I've always equated Title IX with death at the door. No university can function — public or private — without the federal funds. Death at the door gets people's attention. And I have never forgotten that this is fundamentally about power and resources. And most people who hold power are not willing to share it because it's the right thing to do.
Oh Debra, Zuska adores you.
Supreme Goddess Rolison will be the final plenary session speaker at next week's WEPAN conference in Pittsburgh, PA. I'll be attending WEPAN and will give you a conference report upon my return. Research, politicking, gossip, whatever is of interest.
Completely unrelated ancillary information: Pittsburgh is, of course, the hometown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won the 2006 Superbowl. Yay! I grew up with routine Steeler Superbowl wins in the 1970s so I can't help it folks - I used to sing the Stillers Fight Song.
So count Pittsburgh on my list of all time favorite cities. The list includes (in no particular order): Kansas City; Manhattan (the Little Apple, not the Big one); Durham; Heidelberg (you rock, Beate!); Rehovot (thank you, Dr. Degani, for a month of wonderful science); all of Cape Hatteras (I know, technically not a city); Philadelphia; Greensboro (home of Hamilton & Jones pottery); and Bobtown (birthplace of Cyril Wecht).