TAM 8 – Friday pt 2


After getting fired up about the fight for secular rights, we were treated to an excellent panel discussion on Women in Skepticism. Rebecca Watson of SGU fame and founder of Skepchick.org moderated the panel. The panel consisted of Carol Tarvis, social psychologist and author of “Mistakes were made but not by ME”; Dr. Ginger Campbell, a practicing emergency room physician and podcaster (FILL IN PODCAST NAME HERE); Harriet Hall, also known as the SkepDoc. She was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency; Jennifer Michael Hecht, an author and poet whose most recent book, Funny, won the University of Wisconsin’s 2005 Felix Pollak Poetry Prize; and Dr. Pamela Gay, astronomer and podcaster of Astronomy Cast.

The panelists discussed the difficulty of being taken seriously as women in the sciences. In the early days it was typical that if a woman spoke up in a room full of men about a scientific idea, she would be blatantly ignored as if she had never said anything. Then, a few minutes later a man would say the same thing and the idea would be greeted with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, this still exists occasionally.

The panelists also discussed how difficult their education process was because their advisors kept trying to dissuade them from what they wanted to do. Dr. Gay spoke about her advisor explaining that she would be the only woman in her physics class and wouldn’t she be happier doing something else?

One panelist talked about a particularly stubborn and sexist professor who told her that he was going to do her a favor and fail her because, regardless of her high GPA, she was “never going to make it as a scientist”.

Role models were also a big topic. There really weren’t, and still aren’t, too many role models for young women who want to go into the sciences. The consensus of the panel was that while role models can be beneficial, they are hardly necessary. Women can and should learn to be their own role models.

Another major topic discussed by the panelists was the lack of women in skepticism. There are more now than there have been but women are, unfortunately, still not equally represented in the area of skepticism as a whole. The major players in the skeptical world are still predominantly men.

There IS something we can do about this as women, however. We can write. We can speak. We can organize skeptic groups. We can get involved with our local groups. Instead of having a typical cocktail party, why not have a skeptic-themed party? Introduce your friends to the Ideomotor effect and Pareiadolia. Those are two fun and educational beginning topics that everyone can relate to.

As adults, we can encourage and foster an interest in the sciences not only in our own daughters, but in our child’s classmates as well. Volunteer to be a homeroom helper at your local school and talk about cool science stuff in the news.

Stay tuned for more TAM 8 tomorrow.

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1 Comment

  1. sgerbic said,

    July 25, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    One of the things mentioned by the panel was that you don’t have to have a woman be your role model, sometimes men can be just as motivating. I thought that was a wonderful statement.

    This was your first TAM my 5th. Women are growing by leaps and bounds in the field of skepticism. Just look at the line at the women’s bathroom during the break was the phrase I kept hearing over and over.


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