Category Archives: Diversity

Palaeowomaen: Barbara Isaac, Women in The Field, and The Throwing Hypothesis

The following post has been slightly revised in response to commentary below and elsewhere. I thank all those who commented for the helpful critique.

The question of diversity in science, and more specifically, success for women, is often discussed in relation to bench or lab oriented fields. If you read the blogs that cover this sort of topic, they are very often written by bench scientists, for bench scientists, and about bench scientists. Which makes sense because most scientists probably are bench scientists.

ResearchBlogging.orgBut a lot of scientists are fieldworkers, and the problems, challenges and potentials of fieldwork should be viewed, at least to some extent, separately because of different conditions that may prevail in those areas. I highly recommend that you have a look at these blogs for more discussion of issues faced by women in the field sciences:

Here I want to do two separate but related things. I want to discuss certain aspects of the nature of fieldwork in my area in the 20th century that have had a strong effect on the way women have pursued their careers (or not). Although I characterize this as the situation of the 20th century, this does not mean that the situation has or has not changed substantially since then. Simply put, I’m not discussing the current career related situaton for women in field paleoanthropology here in this post.

The second thing I want to do is to talk about a successful female social scientist with a strong connection to fieldwork in palaeoanthropology, as well as theoretical and administrative contributions. This person is also someone who straddles the boundary between classic mid- to late-Twentieth Century patterns of professional activity (in these field sciences) and more recent patterns. I’m speaking here of Barbara Isaac.

The link between these two topics is a bit tenuous but it is also meaningful. There is nothing stereotypical about Barbara Isaac’s career, and there is nothing short of admirable about her as a person and a scholar. My intention here is to not make strong links between these two parallel topics.
Continue reading Palaeowomaen: Barbara Isaac, Women in The Field, and The Throwing Hypothesis

Marta’s (good) questions, Greg’s (oft’ lame) answers: Bonobos?

My student, Marta, exploded the other day.

She was sitting there in class two weeks ago and exploded. She does not know that I know this, but I noticed it happen. Since she was sitting, as usual, in the front row, and it was all in her face, the other students did not see it but I definitely did.

By “exploding” in this case I mean that her brain suddenly filled with unanswered questions, which she then started sending me in frantic emails. Many of these questions are about things we will eventually get to in class, but some are on issues that we won’t touch on at all. I decided, and I received her kind permission to do this, to answer her questions by blogging them. This way I get to kill two birds with one stone, which is usually a good thing (unless of course you are the second bird).

In some cases I’ve re-written the question a little, but in all cases, they are good questions. I cannot guarantee that all of my answers will be good. But I do appreciate Marta’s inspiration, and find it inspiring myself. My only concern is that Marta gets interested enough in this material to become a biological anthropologist and thus wastes an otherwise potentially productive life. I’m hoping she becomes a doctor or a world leader instead, but we’ll see…

OK, on to the first question (I’ll deal with others in later posts):
Continue reading Marta’s (good) questions, Greg’s (oft’ lame) answers: Bonobos?

Race, Gender, IQ and Nature

ResearchBlogging.orgNature, the publishing group, not the Mother, has taken Darwin’s 200th as an opportunity to play the race card (which always sells copy) and went ahead and published two opposing views on this question: “Should scientists study race and IQ?

The answers are Yes, argued by Stephen Cici and Wendy Williams of the Dept of Human Development at Cornell, and No, argued by Steven Rose, a neuroscientist at Open University.

I would like to weigh in.

Continue reading Race, Gender, IQ and Nature

Frequency Of Female Fire Fighter Fewer Than Four Percent

i-68791d03e685bd374c7a13d28e7f6b52-women_firefighter.jpgIn the 1970s and 80s, a number of law suits and other actions began to change the rules for hiring firefighters. There was a moment in the 1980s when a documentary was made (starring the very annoying John Stossel) pieces of which I still use when teaching on Gender. It shows Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, and others arguing in favor of women being firefighters, and others (including, of course, one woman who is already a fire fighter) arguing against. One of the interesting things about the film is the way it is biased against women being fire fighters while at the same time trying really hard to seem the opposite.Well, today, we’ve come a long way. Almost four percent of fire fighters in the US are women! Continue reading Frequency Of Female Fire Fighter Fewer Than Four Percent