September 25, 2006

Newsweek on the gender gap at Berkeley

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at September 25, 2006 1:36 AM

Newsweek has an article on the gender gap in science, and looks at Berkeley's physics department in particular:

To get a sense of how women have progressed in science, take a quick tour of the physics department at the University of California, Berkeley. This is a storied place, the site of some of the most important discoveries in modern science—starting with Ernest Lawrence's invention of the cyclotron in 1931. A generation ago, female faces were rare and, even today, visitors walking through the first floor of LeConte Hall will see a full corridor of exhibits honoring the many distinguished physicists who made history here, virtually all of them white males.

But climb up to the third floor and you'll see a different display. There, among the photos of current faculty members and students, are portraits of the current chair of the department, Marjorie Shapiro, and four other women whose research covers everything from the mechanics of the universe to the smallest particles of matter. A sixth woman was hired just two weeks ago. Although they're still only about 10 percent of the physics faculty, women are clearly a presence here. And the real hope may be in the smaller photos to the right: graduate and undergraduate students, about 20 percent of them female. Every year Berkeley sends freshly minted female physics doctorates to the country's top universities. That makes Shapiro optimistic, but also realistic. "I believe things are getting better," she says, "but they're not getting better as fast as I would like."

Overall the description of Berkeley is positive; they highlight some of the female researchers here and mention policies that the campus is undertaking to improve the situation.

Tags: Academia, Physics, Science, UC Berkeley

Didn't Emma, Emma who I can't remember the last name of, who was in Lloyd, same year as Kledja, leave Berkeley Physics in part because she thought the department was unsupportive of women?

Also, who the heck goes to the Third floor of LeConte?

Posted by: Wren | September 25, 2006 7:50 AM

I knew Emma left but I didn't know that was the reason. It seems to me like the department has improved since then but not knowing what her specific complaints were, I couldn't say for sure.

Physics students go to the third floor pretty frequently, actually: all the administrative offices are there, and more importantly, department tea and happy hour are held in 375.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | September 25, 2006 11:19 AM

Emma's last name is Goldberg.

My understanding is that Emma (aka, Emma: Warrior Princess) changed subjects based on a change of heart regarding what field she wanted to study. Brian Limketkai told me what her new subject was, although my memory is hazy. It was something along the lines of plant biology and a part of it that isn't quantitative at all. (I guess the time she spent herding sheep in New Zealand had a profound influence on her.) Emma was on the short short list of smartest undergrads at Caltech; she can basically study whatever subject she wants and do well at it.

Oh, and for those who don't know her, she was also among the more unique students at Tech (as you probably gathered from some of the description above).

Posted by: Mason | September 25, 2006 7:46 PM

*shrug* Could be; I remember running into her my first year on campus, unless it was when I visited before accepting (I'm too lazy to figure out the years), and having a conversation about how profoundly unhappy she was with the Physics department for a variety of reasons.

Posted by: Wren | September 25, 2006 8:03 PM
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