Why do women...

Jennifer Hunt, professor of economics at McGill University, has an article up titled Why do women leave science and engineering? In brief she says:
American women leave science and engineering at a higher frequency than men. This column suggests that the gender gap is explained by women's relative dissatisfaction with pay and promotion opportunities. This gap is correlated with a high share of men in the industry. Remedies should therefore focus on such fields with a high share of male workers.
I especially like the great graph at the bottom correlating the share of men to a higher number of women leaving.
Aviation Week is surprisingly jumping on this bandwagon as well with an editorial called Missed Opportunities suggesting aerospace companies make a greater effort to recruit women. I like that he doesn't make any trite generalizations about women (unlike one of the commenters who to paraphrase basically says the industry is so bad that women are just smarter than men and get out of it). The author, Tony Velocci, talks about that great labor shortage we've been discussion for ten years. That all the whitehairs are going to retire and we'll have a shortage of engineers (and other professions). That I'm not going to believe until I see it. And while I'm really impressed with such a pro-industry magaze like Aviation Weekly taking on this task I'm rather disappointed the obvious cause isn't even pointed out. While he decries the "good old boys" networks slowing women down he fails to realize most companies are not interested in recruiting more women. They're not even trying. I'd think with the slightest bit of effort, like sending a rep to SWE events or making an effort to have one out of every five interns be female there'd be a huge increase in them seeing qualified candidates come across the desk. I suspect that when/if the labor shortage finally happens, it will all be too little too late. And plenty of other people are recommending we increase our HB1 visas to accomodate that so I think the advice to recruit more women will fall on deaf ears here at least for now. But thanks Velocci, it was a well intentioned piece with good advice. Problem is no one's listening.


Wear to Work Wednesdays #7

It's been a while since I've given any offerings to the Gods and Goddesses of Business Casual. So now it's summertime and before you can blink you've sweated through your winter clothes.

I like this light shirt from The Gap:

Stay cool and comfortable while on your feet all day with these cute oxfords:

Happy powerpointing!



So I had a phone interview for another job and wanted to say some things about it.
First of all, it's enormously frustrating, in any situation, when multiple people are sharing a speakerphone. As soon as more than one person talks you can't hear anything. Since this was a phone interview I was using my cell phone for the call which already had tricky reception going on (thanks AT&T). It was doing that echo thing where you can hear your own voice right after you say things. I was doing my best to ignore it but I'm sure that meant I couldn't always hear when the interviewers said something. Their reception was so bad that at the moment I was ready to write down their names I only got one for each of them, either their first or last only.
I've never done a panel interview over the phone like this before so that was all a little new. It sounded like they were interviewing about a thousand of us because they had a list of questions ready to ask and stuck to those. In this situation it was probably fine but I hope to not encounter that in the future. Much as I'm expected to think on my feet it'd be nice if they asked questions that meant something to them or that came to them in the moment. Their first question was probably the hardest where they asked me to tell them something about myself that isn't on my resume. I hate to say it, but my life's on my resume. I don't have my video game collection on my resume because it's not relevant to the job so it's a little awkward you suddenly asking me for irrelevant personal information. I didn't know how to answer the question so I basically reiterated my elevator speech (or a shortened version of my cover letter) but of course all that is on my resume in some form or another. I'd be open to ideas about how to answer that.
In the end, they were very nice, and even though I don't think it will work out this time I'm supposed to hear back this week. The good news is I think this is surely a sign the economy is picking up. Doug Fred over at The Engineering Daily has a great list of questions to ask the interviewer for a number of different kinds of jobs, if only I had read that beforehand.


Work Travel

There's one thing about armpit industrial towns; they all have a Starbucks. They may have gas station brands you've never heard of and people who look tired and burnt out. But everywhere there is a Starbucks for you to sneak into while the man in the smock tells you it'll be another hour before he's done and you're on the clock with no place to go. Even during the middle of the day there's a few kids hogging a table with no coffee, a young man with a laptop, and a few friends catching up. I'd like to think the older man in front of me with nothing but a notebook and a pen was working on the next great American novel. I was working on finishing a sci fi novel and some coffee cake.


This is a man's world

"Wow, pushy women today!"
"Did she just call us pushy?"
"I think she did!"
"Well it's not a bad thing to be pushy. You have to be pushy with all these guys around here."
"Yeah, if we were men you wouldn't call us pushy, you'd call it being assertive."
"Yes, if you're a woman you're automatically a bitch."
"I know!"
"And if a man gets a little bit of white hair he's told he looks distinguished. But a woman just looks old."
"Ugh I know."
"Don't get me started..."


In Bernoulli I trust

I recently had the good fortune of seeing a C-17 in flight. The Air Force sends it around apparently as a sometime recruiting tool and I would guess it to be as effective as any fighter jet. It's crew certainly looked pleased warming it up, then wheeling it out backwards on to the tarmac (four fully reversible turbofan engines with up to 43,000 lbf).

Here it is performing a few tricky moves a plane of its size has no business performing. Gives me some hope for us people of a certain size. Maybe we've all got a few dance moves up our sleeves as well, though I know I'm nowhere near so graceful as this machine.


Take Flight

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
-John Masefield from "Sea-Fever"
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is set to launch their solar power sail demonstrator at the end of this week. Solar sails have long been one of those talked about future propulsion methods for space travel. Rockets can get us into space but the amount of fuel you have to carry with you begins to become cumbersome in the event of a longer trip which certainly will be an issue some day. I like NASA's Ideas Based on What We'd Like to Achieve. They discuss the difficult to imagine as being practical (worm holes and warp drives) to the theoretically brilliant if we could ever build it or get it to work (negative mass propulsion, the idea cleverly underutilized in science fiction though it can be seen in the Mass Effect videogame series by Bioware).
I'm a bit cheered by all these high profile international efforts for space exploration. Perhaps once our "space dominance" is truly tested will we realize what an enormous field we are neglecting if we allow interstellar travel to be only the playground of the private sector.



A new study shows caffeine is more effective than placebo in reducing errors and improving cognitive performance. It also lowers errors better than a nap.
In other news, duh, and tell that intern to get me a mocha-frappa-carmel-latte-iced-machiccino. This sounds like a Dilbert cartoon. When pointy-haired boss accuses Wally of not doing any work and just sitting there drinking coffee, Wally can quip he is reducing errors.


But what about the dudes?!

If you saw this chart at the top of the article, what might you think the headline would be? "Women make gains in the labor force up to the 1990s"? Or "Employment dips affect both men and women"? Well you'd be wrong. Because it's another "OMG, the dudes are losing teh jobz!" You'll notice the line for the women is dipping too, and wasn't climbing as steeply as the men's before the downturn. But I guess we don't care about that. What are some of the causes, who can be blame?
"Demand for workers who haven't much education—which includes many men, particularly minority-group men—is waning."
Really, you mean an educated workforce is more in demand than a non-educated workforce? I had no idea. And who's fault is this?
"Women have suffered less in this recession. They were more likely to be in health care and other jobs that weren't hit as hard as construction and manufacturing. They are increasingly likely to have the education so often required to get or keep a good job these days."
That's right, those wimminz decided to get themselves educated, and work in lower paying fields like education and healthcare. How dare they! I'm also glad the WSJ can quantify women's comparative suffering. I guess if your higher paying husband loses his job and you're now the only support for your family you've definitely suffered less than your husband who's now sitting at home watching TV all day. ("On average, surveys find, the unemployed in the U.S. spend 40 minutes a day looking for work and 3 hours and 20 minutes a day watching TV.")
"That's good for their families. But will there be good-paying jobs in the future for prime-age men, particularly the ones who don't go to college?"
Silly me I always thought what was good for the family would be...good for the family. I had no idea we didn't care so much about the family, only the menz. And clearly the way to obsess over this is not to worry about what's stopping lower income or minority males from going to college, nope, let's worry about the wimminz taking their jobs instead.
"A third option is surrender to market forces and tax the winners to subsidize the losers. Sending checks to idle men is unappealing, but the government could do more to supplement wages (or health insurance costs) for those who work at low wages."
I'm so glad that government money to support "welfare moms" is completely unacceptable in this society but we'll gladly send money to unemployed men (guess we don't care about the unemployed women) who didn't bother to educate themselves. Yes instead of supporting programs that would educate this workforce and help transition it for a new economy let's just send extra money to a bunch of loafers. Good call WSJ; Now I know what your brand of conservatism is all about.


Abort, Abort!

So NASA ran their Pad Abort 1 test today, the abort system for the Orion vehicle. It's pretty frickin' ridiculous. Given Obama decided to cancel the Ares Launcher program, the rocket that would actually take us in to space, and the "Orion vehicle" is no more than a cabin for the crew with a bailout mechanism and lander, I'm not sure what the point of testing this cabin is.

Of course the pork-hungry people over at Lockheed are somehow managing to keep this overglorified box in the budget saying it could serve as a bailout vehicle for the International Space Station, but that's pretty unrealistic, would likely require a lot more investment and testing, and if we'll be using Soyuz rockets to get into space than likely the astronauts would leave on that not some flimsy little box, and more than likely if there was a true catastrophe and need to bail out this option would take too long. In order to actually cancel the Ares program (in which Alliant Techsystems, Rocketdyne and Boeing all have a hand; apparently their lobbyists aren't as well connected as Lockheed's) Congress would have to approve it in the new budget.

So please. Write to your congressmen. Tell them we need a rocket capable of carrying people into space and beyond. We're already cancelling the Space Shuttle program, which is understandable given its age and wear, and we can't be relying on the Russians to get us into space for the next decade. Funding banks and extending unemployment is only going to get this country so far. We need to spend money on science and development. The technology we build for NASA supports good companies and in turn that technology can be developed for other commercial operations that create jobs as well as the funding to these companies can enable more development on their part for new products and designs that will create jobs. Plus, the Ares is one baaaad motherf- shut your mouth!

Can only go down from here

It has not been a banner day. After a few politely worded, gramatically correct and fully punctuated civil emails to my Professor asking about his grading policy, he offered the clever rebuttal of "You should get over it." Since you're grading me on arbitrary formatting issues that are all or nothing I'll probably fail the class and then I will be so over it. I responded with my own snippy remark that he can give me a grade and doesn't need to rudely dismiss me, but I really wanted to rant on about my tuition dollars, state income tax dollars, and property taxes paying part of his $144k a year salary and that asking for myself (and other students) to be graded on whether we've learned the material and can demonstrate said learning of the material should be sufficient. Grading me on specifics about whether my answers are supposed to be separate from showing my work, and giving me a zero, when you didn't even specify this until after the assignment was in, is less than cool. Following that up with an intentionally snarky email is over the top asshattery.



Look, I live in enough terror as it is. Walking out to my car is an exercise is "What will go wrong this time?" Will my door stick? Will I have to pull out the screwdriver to get it open? Will my car start? Will it overheat? Will something burst open in the engine? What am I leaking today?
So I don't need anything ramping up the stress level. I get in my car, open the windows, take down my window shade, put the key in the ignition, and I hear something...rustling in the back of my car. I am instantly 5 feet outside of my car and yelling at it. Turns out to be a bird. Why is there a motherfucking bird in my motherfucking car? Yes, I left the windows cracked about an inch. And some fucking Houdini-Bird decided to get in there, get stuck, shit all over the place, and only leave when I opened both fucking doors for his majesty. For reals? I mean the inside of my car is not very big. It's not like the cabin in the Millenium Falcon, you can not fit Chewbacca in there, ok? So I don't want to have a close fucking encounter with some weird ass little bird. I saw the Hitchcock movie, that's close enough for me, ok? So in the future I will never leave my windows cracked if you promise to stay the hell outta my car. Thanks.



Two women talking about a teenager going into prison for a long sentence. Second woman says, "So he'll be 50 when he gets out. So he'll have his whole life ahead of him!"
How true. How easy it is to look out and think "I'll be X years old by then! So much of my life will have passed me by!" But how inaccurate. How easily we forget that life is the journey, not the destination. And how interesting it is to every decade still have a fresh perspective and still see the future as so far away. I really admire that woman for saying that and I'm glad I heard it.


It all makes sense now

Definitely go read this beer-laden explanation of market derivatives over at Pascale's. You'll feel like an economist (or an alcoholic).