Women, Men, Science, and Communication

Catherine M Quinones cquinon at curly.cc.emory.edu
Thu Mar 28 08:57:00 EST 1996

Eric Fairfield (fairfiel at trail.com) wrote:
: I have tried to analyze the many men and women that I have had as mentors, colleagues, and 
: workers.  I find, to my surprise, that while there are some differences between men and women the 
: majority of the variation seems to be between individuals (different people are interested in 
: different things) and in the mentors that these individuals have had.
: I used to assume that men and women were very different but my experience says that the 
: differences between sexes are smaller than I expected while the differences between individuals 
: are larger than I expected.

Well, there you go!  Explain this to your daughter.  All you need to say 
is, see, men and women can both be good at science.  Then recount your 
experiences, emphasizing what made a certain mentor/acquaintance "good" 
or "bad" from your perspective.  In doing this, you'll probably reach a 
certain idea of what a good *scientist* is, gender aside.

The general "models" usually group character traits as masculine or
feminine: anything that involves feelings or patience or nimbleness
(sometimes creativity is also mentioned) gets tagged "female" and anything
that involves assertiveness gets tagged "male."  Of course, these
attitudes are Victorian at best, and have no place in this day and age! 
Borrowing from, say, business models, it is now accepted that effective
managers and successful individuals (and dealing with others is something
scientists must do) display both "masculine" and "feminine" traits: you
need to get stuff done, you need to be assertive so that you get your due,
BUT you also need to be flexible and consider those around you.  In that
sense, I think it's important to discuss successful interpersonal skills 
as well as internal drive/dedication with your daughter.  She's going to 
need both an inside "fire" to get and keep her going, and a knowledge of 
human behavior to help her shimmy around obstacles (human and otherwise) :)
: I am trying to do as well as I can with my daughter.  I often feel that I am making it up as we 
: go along and that the most important and hardest part of this is to maintain clear, understood 
: communication between us.  Clear communication between people is surprisingly difficult.

It sounds like you are doing great.  One thing I always hated (and still
do) is a condescending attitude: kids usually know more than adults
realize, and they appreciate a chance to THINK about issues; they also
appreciate getting information to fuel that thought.  There are no
guarantees to make 100% sure your daughter will grow up to be exactly what
you want her to be.  The best you can do is provide her with correct
information, and encouraage her to always think for herself and to make
decisions considering all available information (after questioning the
credibility of her information sources).  Eventually, she may or may not
end up being a scientist, but if you help her along (by setting a good
example, providing her with the info she needs and a chance to talk about
these issues), she will end up thinking like one... This, I believe, will
enrich herwhole life, will make her have a clearer perspective, and will
no doubt make her a more efficient thinker, whatever field she chooses. 

Cathy Quinones 					quinones at mindspring.com
http://www.mindspring.com/~mintz/coverpg.html = bird care info
Poicephalus rule!!

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