4-14-21 STEM’s racial, ethnic and gender gaps are still strikingly large
Black and Hispanic workers remain underrepresented while it varies widely by field for women. Efforts to promote equity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math have a long way to go, a new report suggests. Over the last year, widespread protests in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black people have sparked calls for racial justice in STEM. Social media movements such as #BlackinSTEM have drawn attention to discrimination faced by Black students and professionals, and the Strike for Black Lives challenged the scientific community to build a more just, antiracist research environment (SN: 12/16/20). An analysis released in early April of federal education and employment data from recent years highlights how wide the racial, ethnic and gender gaps in STEM representation are. “This has been an ongoing conversation in the science community” for decades, says Cary Funk, the director of science and society research at the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Because the most recent data come from 2019, Pew’s snapshot of STEM cannot reveal how recent calls for diversity, equity and inclusion may have moved the needle. But here are four big takeaways from existing STEM representation data: From 2017 to 2019, Black professionals made up only 9 percent of STEM workers in the United States — lower than their 11 percent share of the overall U.S. workforce. The representation gap was even larger for Hispanic professionals, who made up only 8 percent of people working in STEM, while they made up 17 percent of the total U.S. workforce. White and Asian professionals, meanwhile, remain overrepresented in STEM. Some STEM occupations, such as engineers and architects, skew particularly white. But even fields that include more professionals from marginalized backgrounds do not necessarily boast more supportive environments, notes Jessica Esquivel, a particle physicist at Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., not involved in the research.
3-25-21 Equal pay: Megan Rapinoe was 'devalued, disrespected and dismissed'
Soccer star Megan Rapinoe said despite her success she is still paid less than men. Speaking at an event at the White House, to mark Equal Pay Day she said: "I've been devalued, disrespected, dismissed because I am a woman."
3-20-21 Viral video exposes inequality in NCAA college basketball
A video from a US college basketball player has gone viral for showing the inequalities between the equipment given to male and female players. University of Oregon forward Sedona Prince showed the fully-stocked weight room given to men's teams for the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. But women were only given one small rack of exercise weights. The contrast shown in Ms Prince's TikTok brought widespread criticism. "Wow - come on now!" tweeted NBA superstar Steph Curry, copying in the March Madness and NCAA Twitter accounts. "Yall trippin trippin." The championship tournaments are known as March Madness and began this week. Women are playing their tournament in San Antonio, Texas, while the men's games are taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana. "This is outrageous, @NCAA It needs to be fixed. Now," tweeted top Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. "I think there's this big misconception that women don't need weights as much as men," Ms Prince, 20, told BBC World Service on Friday. "And this is so false because our bodies are just important as theirs." 'We need recovery. We need to be strong. The sport we play is extremely physical," she said adding, that the lack of workout equipment made it "apparent how little care there was" for women athletes. In a conference call with coaches and team administrators ," NCAA VP of women's basketball Lynn Holzman acknowledge "we fell short". She also pledged that the women's facilities would be upgraded by the weekend. Ms Prince said that she is grateful for the league's apology. "It does mean a lot that they are acknowledging it and talking about it and then realising that they made a mistake," she said. "It means a lot that they're recognising that now."
3-17-21 Women with senior jobs sleep better in countries with gender equality
Women in managerial roles seem to sleep better if they live in a country with greater gender equality. The same isn’t true for male managers, who sleep better in countries with higher GDP. Leah Ruppanner and her colleagues at the University of Melbourne used data from the 2012 European Social Survey to study the sleep of 18,116 people, aged 25 to 64, from 29 European countries. Although it is an annual survey that is circulated across Europe every year, 2012 was the most recent year the participants were asked about their sleep patterns. The survey asked people whether they had experienced restless sleep in the past week, along with which country they live in and their occupation. Ruppanner and her team then combined these answers with data on each country’s gender gap, as quantified by the United Nations gender development index. “The UN quantify how women are situated across a whole range of measures within a country, in terms of access to education, healthcare and even employment opportunities,” says Ruppanner. The team found that, in general, both men and women in managerial roles report restless sleep more often than people in less senior positions, but that female managers living in countries with a higher gender development index reported better sleep than women with similar jobs living in less equal countries. “The Nordic countries tended to do really well here, because they have a whole range of policies that work to empower women and close the gender gap,” says Ruppanner. The same correlation wasn’t true for men in managerial roles, however. “Men’s sleep appears to be tied to economic productivity – male managers sleep better when there’s a higher GDP,” says Ruppanner. “But everyone, men and women, sleep better in more gender equal countries.”
3-14-21 Afghanistan investigates ban on girls' singing
The Afghan education ministry says it is investigating a recent statement from the director of education in the capital, Kabul, which banned girls older than 12 from singing in public. The ban was widely criticised on social media. Girls shared clips of themselves singing using the hashtag #IAmMySong. The row comes amid concerns about consequences of a possible peace deal with the Taliban. Under the Taliban, girls were denied an education and most music was banned. The Kabul statement banned girls 12 years and older from singing at school functions, and also banned older girls from having male music teachers. The education ministry says it does not reflect its own position. It says it will assess it and may take disciplinary action. The ban, announced several days ago, sparked criticism on social media, with literary figures and campaigners saying it was a backward step in educational rights. "Forgive us God, human beings can be so cruel that they see even a child from a gender-based perspective," tweeted author and poet Shafiqa Khpalwak, one of the country's best known female writers. Some women compared it to life under the Taliban - who were ousted in 2001 - when girls were banned from going to school and most music was forbidden. "This is Talibanisation from inside the republic," Sima Samar, an Afghan human rights activist of nearly 40 years, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press (AP) news agency. The Afghan government is currently under pressure to forge a peace deal with the Taliban, and although many Afghan women want an end to the violence, they are worried about their future rights, correspondents say.
3-13-21 Mississippi bans trans girls from school sports
Mississippi's governor has signed a law banning transgender athletes from competing in girls' sports at school. Activists say the "Mississippi Fairness Act" is the first law targeting transgender people to pass in 2021. The bill argues that boys and girls have "inherently different athletic capabilities". It is expected to face legal challenges. It comes as a swath of Republican states push back against pro-LGBT measures from the Biden administration. The law requires public high schools and institutions of higher education to "designate its athletic teams or sports according to biological sex". Coming into effect in July, it also calls for protecting schools that maintain separate sports teams from complaint or investigation. Supporters of the bill had argued that transgender women have an unfair advantage over those born female, because they have "categorically different strength, speed and endurance". It cites an article written by a trio of women's sports stars - including tennis champion Martina Navratilova - that said it would be "a denial of science" to ignore that those born male can "beat the best girls and women in head-to-head competition". Ms Navratilova has since established a group that she says will seek a "science-based, ethical approach" to "establish a middle ground that both protects girls' and women's sport and accommodates transgender athletes". She has also proposed a special provision for elite sports. The bill passed through both chambers of the state legislature by overwhelming majorities, the House by 81-28 and the Senate 34-9. Its sponsor, Republican senator Angela Burks Hill, said she introduced the legislation after seeing issues arise in other parts of the country. Opponents of transgender women athletes competing in accordance with their gender identity frequently cite a lawsuit filed against two trans females who were champion sprinters in Connecticut. Ms Hill did not identify any similar local concerns but said "numerous coaches across the state" called to say pre-emptive action was needed. Critics say that examples of transgender girls outcompeting other girls are rare, which is why the Connecticut case is so frequently cited. (Webmaster's comment: Those who oppose LGBQs are full of fear! You can see it their face!)
3-13-21 Sri Lanka to ban burka and other face coverings
Sri Lanka has taken a significant step towards banning the burka and other face coverings in public, on grounds of national security. Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara told the BBC that he had signed a cabinet order which now needs parliamentary approval. Officials say they expect the ban to be implemented very soon. The move comes nearly two years after a wave of co-ordinated attacks on hotels and churches on Easter Sunday. Suicide bombers targeted Catholic churches and tourist hotels, killing more than 250 people in April 2019. The Islamic State militant group said it had carried out the attacks. As the authorities tracked down the militants, an emergency short-term ban on face coverings was implemented in the majority-Buddhist nation. Now the government is moving to re-introduce it on a permanent basis. Mr Weerasekara told reporters that the burka was "a sign of religious extremism that came about recently". He added that it was "affecting national security" and that a permanent ban was overdue. "So I have signed that and it will be implemented very soon," he said. Mr Weerasekara also said the government planned to ban more than 1,000 madrassa Islamic schools which he said were flouting national education policy. "Nobody can open a school and teach whatever you want to the children. It must be as per the government laid down education policy. Most of unregistered schools "teach only the Arabic language and the Koran, so that is bad", he said. Hilmi Ahmed, vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told the BBC that if officials have problems identifying people in burkas "there would not be any objection from anyone to remove the face cover for identity purposes". He said everyone had a right to wear a face covering regardless of their faith:"That has to be seen from a rights point of view, and not just a religious point of view."
3-2-21 Twitch backtracks after outcry for using 'gender neutral' term 'womxn'
Streaming platform Twitch has backtracked on a new policy to change its spelling of "women" after criticism from transgender communities. The company had said it would use the term "womxn" in order to be more gender neutral in its language. But LGBT communities online called the change transphobic because it suggested trans women were not women. "We're committed to growing from these experiences... and ensuring we're inclusive to all," the company tweeted. "Womxn" has become a popular alternative word for people who say that the term "women" has patriarchal roots. Some believe the term is inclusive of trans women and some non-binary people, but that is contested. The spelling "stems from a longstanding objection to the word woman as it comes from man, and the linguistic roots of the word mean that it really does come from the word man," Dr Clara Bradbury-Rance, fellow at King's College London, told the BBC in 2018. It echoes the use of the word "Latinx" in some Spanish-speaking communities in an attempt to move away from the traditional use of genders in the language. Twitch, a platform that is especially popular with gamers, announced its decision to swap "women" for "womxn" as part of its celebration of Women's History Month. "Join us in celebrating and supporting all the Womxn creating their own worlds, building their communities, and leading the way on Twitch," it said in a now-deleted tweet. But the company faced a fierce backlash online as some suggested the company was making an explicit distinction between women and trans women. "With womxn you're just separating them more, you're not being inclusive, you're excluding them from women," wrote one Twitter user. "This is in fact transphobic and really outdated," another wrote. On Tuesday Twitch apologised, writing "we want to assure you that we have, and will continue to, work with the LGBTQIA+ community. We're still learning." "Our good intentions don't always equate to positive impact, but we're committed to growing from these experiences, doing better, and ensuring we're inclusive to all," the company said.
2-24-21 China court orders man to pay wife for housework in landmark case
A Beijing divorce court has ordered a man to compensate his wife for the housework she did during their marriage, in a landmark ruling. The woman will receive 50,000 yuan ($7,700; £5,460) for five years of unpaid labour. The case has generated a huge debate online over the value of domestic work, with some saying the compensation amount was too little. The ruling comes after China's introduction of a new civil code. According to court records, the man identified by his surname Chen had filed for divorce last year from his wife, surnamed Wang, after getting married in 2015. She was reluctant to divorce at first, but later requested financial compensation, arguing that Chen had not shouldered any housework or childcare responsibilities for their son. Beijing's Fangshan District Court ruled in her favour, ordering him to pay her monthly alimony of 2,000 yuan, as well as the one-off payment of 50,000 yuan for the housework she has done. The presiding judge told reporters on Monday that the division of a couple's joint property after marriage usually entails splitting tangible property. "But housework constitutes intangible property value," said the judge. The ruling was made according to the new civil code in the country, which came into effect this year. Under the new law, a spouse is entitled to seek compensation in a divorce if he or she bears more responsibility in child raising, caring for elderly relatives, and assisting partners in their work. Previously, divorcing spouses could only request such compensation if a prenuptial agreement had been signed - an uncommon practice in China. On social media, the case sparked heated debate, with a related hashtag on microblogging platform Weibo viewed more than 570 million times. Some social media users pointed out that 50,000 yuan for five years' of work was too little. "I'm a bit speechless, the work of a full-time housewife is being underestimated. In Beijing, hiring a nanny for a year costs more than 50,000 yuan," said one commenter.
2-12-21 Britney Spears: Judge rules singer's father must share conservatorship
A judge has denied a request by Britney Spears' father to exert greater control over her finances. Jamie Spears has controlled his daughter's financial affairs since 2008, but the singer has recently indicated she wants him removed. On Thursday, a judge upheld a previous ruling that made a financial company a co-conservator for the singer. The judge rejected Mr Spears' request to keep his previous level of power over his daughter's investments. The ruling means Mr Spears and the private trust company, Bessemer Trust, will now have equal power to manage her finances. As a result, he is now expected to work with the company to create a budget and investment proposal for the singer's estate. The conservatorship is a legal arrangement that was put in place because of concerns about her mental health. Los Angeles Judge Brenda Penny appointed Bessemer Trust as co-conservators in November, but rejected the star's effort to remove her father entirely. Jamie Spears had objected to Bessemer's involvement, arguing that it reduced the power he has held for years. Judge Perry threw out his objection on Thursday. Another hearing is scheduled for 17 March. Britney Spears' lawyer Samuel D Ingham III has previously said the singer is "afraid" of her father and does not want him to control her finances and career. On Thursday, Mr Ingham reiterated the pop star's wish, adding that it was "no secret" she didn't want her father to be a co-conservator, but acknowledged that removing him altogether would be a "separate issue". Interest in the case has been renewed after the recent release of a documentary that focuses on the conflict over the singer's guardianship. Framing Britney Spears, which was produced by The New York Times, examined the conservatorship in depth, as well as how the singer has been treated by the media throughout her career. It also explored the #FreeBritney movement, a campaign by some of the star's fans who believe her life and career are being controlled against her will. Campaigners from the group were outside the hearing on Thursday.(Webmaster's comment: Britney Spears is 39 nine years old! She doesn't need a father any longer!)
2-6-21 Swiss women only got the right to vote 50 years ago. Why?
Women in Switzerland are remembering a key moment in history this weekend - the 50th anniversary of finally being granted the right to vote. Switzerland lagged far behind its neighbours Italy, France, and Germany, becoming one of the last countries in Europe to offer women equal political rights.
2-3-21 Golden Globes 2021: Three female directors make history in nominations
Three women have been nominated for best director at the Golden Globe awards - the first time more than one has been shortlisted in a single year. Regina King, Chloe Zhao and Britain's Emerald Fennell are nominated alongside David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin. Fincher's Mank is the most nominated film with six nominations - the same number as The Crown, which leads the way in the TV awards. Sacha Baron Cohen and Olivia Colman are among the Britons up for acting awards. The winners will be announced in a ceremony on 28 February. The awards are taking place two months later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mank, David Fincher's film about Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, leads the film nominations. The Crown is the most nominated TV show despite a row over how it portrays the Royal Family. Sorkin's film The Trial of the Chicago 7 and TV comedy Schitt's Creek follow with five nominations each. Baron Cohen and Colman have received two nominations each, with the former recognised for his roles in the films Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Colman is up for best actress in a TV drama, an award she won last year, for playing the Queen in The Crown, and is shortlisted again for her forthcoming film The Father. Emma Corrin and Josh O'Connor are also nominated for The Crown for their roles as Princess Diana and Prince Charles respectively. Anya Taylor-Joy is another actress who is up for two awards - for the Jane Austen adaptation Emma and chess drama The Queen's Gambit. The presence of three women in the best director category comes after only five female directors were nominated in the past 77 years, the last being Ava DuVernay for Selma in 2014. Fennell, King and Zhao are recognised for their films Promising Young Woman, One Night in Miami and Nomadland respectively.
1-19-21 Egyptian woman arrested for baking 'indecent' cakes
A woman in Egypt was briefly detained after being accused of baking "indecent" cakes, local media say. The cakes, topped with genitalia and underwear fashioned out of fondant icing, were eaten at a birthday party at an exclusive Cairo sports club. After photographs went viral, the baker was arrested and later released on $319 (£234) bail. There are reports that the partygoers may face legal action too. A top religious body warned that such baked goods were forbidden by Islam. Dar al-Ifta wrote on Facebook that products featuring sexual representations were "an assault on the value system and a crude abuse of society". The ministry of youth and sports is reportedly looking into the involvement of the club that hosted the private gathering. Human rights lawyer Negad El Borai tweeted that the incident confirmed "there is a segment of society, with support of the state, that wants to eliminate any space for personal freedom in Egypt under the pretext of safeguarding Egyptian family values". He drew parallels with the cases of several young Egyptian women accused of morality-related offences in connection with videos posted on TikTok and other social media platforms. Last Tuesday, an appeals court overturned the two-year prison sentences handed to two influencers - Haneen Hossam, 20, and Mawada al-Adham, 22 - who were convicted in July of "undermining family values and principles" and publishing "indecent" photos and videos. But days later it emerged that the public prosecutor had ordered the women's continued detention pending an investigation on human trafficking charges. The prosecutor alleged that they had exploited teenage girls by encouraging them to post similar videos to theirs. A lawyer for the women said they would appeal against the move.
1-11-21 Pope Francis backs women's roles in Catholic services
Pope Francis has formally changed the law in the Roman Catholic Church, allowing women to administer communion and serve at the altar. But the ordained priesthood will still be the preserve of men, he stressed in the decree. It is official recognition of roles already performed by women in some Catholic services, especially in Western countries. The Pope said women were making a "precious contribution" to the Church. The announcement is expected to force conservative Church leaders to accept greater involvement of women in the liturgy. On the more reformist wing of the Church, Pope Francis has tried to present a more welcoming image through his rhetoric, the BBC's Mark Lowen reports from Rome. But last year, after a synod to decide whether to allow women to become deacons able to preside over some Church services, the Pope refused to make the change, frustrating some who had hoped for more fundamental reform during his pontificate. The Pope changed a clause in canon law from "lay men" to "lay persons", specifying that they can perform "the ministries of lector and acolyte" in Catholic services. His decree, called a Spiritus Domini, was accompanied by a letter explaining "the urgency... to rediscover the co-responsibility of all of the baptised in the Church, and the mission of the laity in a particular way".
1-3-21 Racism in ballet: Black dancer's 'humiliation' at racist comments
Chloé Lopes Gomes says she has faced racial harassment while being a ballet dancer. The French performer is the first black female dancer at Berlin's principal ballet company Staatsballett. Ms Gomes claims she was told she did not fit in because of her skin colour, and was asked to wear white make up so she would 'blend in' with the other dancers. The company has responded by saying her allegation "deeply moves us" and an internal investigation is underway into racism and discrimination at Staatsballett.