Four women, including one of our own, talk to Gina Kolata about their lives. Tal Rabin gives the impression of being the happiest of the four.

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4 thoughts on “

  1. I found this statement of Tal Rabin disturbing:

    TAL RABIN: Even when we do make it to the conferences, I think that there is still something different about the way that we promote ourselves.

    I remember standing next to one of my co-authors, and he was talking to some other guy, and he was telling him, “I have this amazing result. I just did this, I just did that.” And I was sitting and thinking there, what result is he talking about? Until he got to the punch line. It was a joint result. It was a result of mine also. I would have never spoken about my result in the superlatives that the guy was speaking about it.

    Does Tal Rabin attributes the faculty of being showy and arrogant to all men? Interesting.

  2. No, I don’t.
    The story is not intended to present men as arrogant and showy.
    It is a statement about averages of behavior, differences in style and me specifically.

  3. Note that Tal was just recounting her own experience. She never says anything about “all men”. Why do attribute something to her that she never says?

    Also, since there are very few behaviors that “all people” do, then are we never allowed to make an observation about someone else’s behavior without making a global statement? That is what Delly is implicitly suggesting.

  4. It is interesting to note that the women in the panel discussion come from very different academic fields. This might affect the amount of happiness that they exude, and maybe even the amount of happiness they feel. Theoretical Computer Science seems to be an extremely friendly and collegial field. Compared even to theoretical physics and mathematics, not to mention experimental fields. The other women on the panel all come from applied fields, and I think that the whole comments about needing to be made of steel and how strong one needs to be, are partly based on that. The panel is composed of four scientists, but not every science is the same, as it seems much more pleasant to be a theoretical computer scientist than, say, a neuroscientist.

    Some of the difference is in the fields’ “culture”. But I think much of the difference comes from the funding situation. The job of experimental scientists revolves, to an uncanny extent, around the need to get funding. Much politicking and lobbying is required, and I can understand why women would not be thrilled to do this. It’s a task which is suited for people who are willing to invest huge amount of time and effort, either because they really are very excited about the final goal, or love the thrill of the power and control (or both). I suspect women just can’t be bothered. If they wanted politics, they’d go into politics. Now, one can say that surely this is not true for the theoretical sciences, where funding is not required. However, look for example at math: there are few positions and little travel money, so the resources that do exist are spread too thinly, and you end up in a similar situation, except that people are spending huge amounts of effort to get 10K$ grants rather than 10M$ grants. Theoretical Computer Science is in the unique position that on the one hand, no big funding is needed, and on the other hand, the funding that we do need (traveling and students, mainly) is readily available at a relatively small amount of effort. Under such conditions of plenty, the situation is exactly right for a pleasant and collegial society. Then Tal says how much she’s enjoying herself, while the other scientists vehemently disagree:

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