Posts Tagged gender

The building blocks of bias Siouxsie Wiles May 21

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In late 2013 I wrote an open letter to Lego, with an idea for how they could stamp out gender-stereotyping in one simple move. Earlier this month I got to speak about my idea at TEDx Auckland. Have a listen and if, like me, you think Lego should fix this, then please sign my petition.

*Oops, when I said Lego introduced Harry Potter lego in 2011, I meant to say 2001. Must have been nerves!

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Siouxsie Wiles lego graph 1

Where do all the women go? Siouxsie Wiles Mar 06


This weekend is International Women’s Day and the theme this year is Inspiring Change.

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, just 30% of science researchers are women. They have produced a nifty tool to see where those women work and in what fields.

UNESCO - Women In Science Interactive

For NZ, the tool says that 59% of Bachelors students are female, 51% of Doctoral students and 52% of researchers. Interestingly, when the researchers are broken down by sector, a whopping 67% of academic researchers are female, while only 25% of those in the public sector and 16% in the private sector are female. As I’m in academia, I’d really like to see the breakdown for faculty positions, as its my impression that there are much fewer women the higher up the academic food chain you go.

One of the many reasons put forward for this is that more men than women are invited to speak at academic meetings and that invitations like these are of great importance for academic advancement. So its interesting to see some data on this from Arturo Casadevall & Jo Handelsman. They have just published a paper in the open access journal mBio looking at the numbers of male and females speakers at American Society for Microbiology meetings.

Here are some of their findings from analysis of 216 sessions from 3 general meetings held in 2011, 2012, and 2013:
1. 104 sessions were convened by male-only convener teams
2. 112 sessions had at least one female in the convener team.
3. In sessions convened by all men, invited female speakers averaged 25%.
4. In sessions in which the convener team included at least one woman, woman speakers averaged 43%.

Inclusion of at least one woman among the conveners increased the proportion of female speakers by 72% compared with those convened by men alone.

Something to think about the next time you organise a seminar series or meeting.

Casadevall A, Handelsman J. 2014. The presence of female conveners correlates with a higher proportion of female speakers at scientific symposia. mBio 5(1):e00846-13. doi:10.1128/mBio.00846-13

What Kiwis die of – Part II: The battle of the sexes Siouxsie Wiles Jan 31


Two weeks ago, we asked Kiwis what they thought they would die of, and compared their responses to the primary causes of death recorded by the Ministry of Health for the 29,204 people who died in New Zealand in 2009. Mike Dickison produced a beautiful infographic* of the causes that were responsible for more than 1% of those deaths. Obviously this data reflects what was recorded on the death certificate which may not always be the immediate cause of death. In fact, there was some discussion afterwards about the reality of ‘old age’ being an unacceptable cause of death here!

This week we decided to take a look at differences for causes of death recorded for men and women. Mike has worked his magic again and produced the infographic below. This time the little coffins each represent 25 people.

Its striking that more men die of prostate cancer than women die of ovarian, and twice as many men than women die from cancer of the bladder and kidney. But lots more women die of cerebrovascular diseases, that is strokes and brain haemorrhages, and dementia. To see if people’s perceptions tallied up with reality, we took to social media and asked people whether they thought there were any differences between what men and women died of**. So what did the Kiwis we surveyed think? Results are summarised in the slideshare presentation below.

The first striking thing to come from our survey participants is that the majority thought that more men die than women, and that more men die of diabetes, cerebrovascular diseases, traffic accidents and suicide. But not skin cancer. In actual fact, the numbers of men and women who died in 2009 was very similar, 14,615 men and 14,589 women. As you can see from the infographic, more men died in traffic accidents and diabetes, or committed suicide. But our respondents were way off with cerebrovascular diseases. And with the fact that skin cancer killed more men than women. The other question we asked related to breast cancer deaths in men. 8.2% of our respondents thought that men couldn’t get breast cancer. In fact, in New Zealand in 2009, 1 in 100 breast cancer deaths were in men.

As several people pointed out with our first infographic, these differences between perception and reality could be dangerous if they mean resources are diverted away from where they are really needed.

*Head on over to Mike’s Pictures of Numbers blog to see how the infographic came about and for a downloadable version.

** We used Twitter, Facebook, and email to entice over 100 people to fill out our survey using the SurveyMonkey website. Like all online surveys, ours should not be considered representative of the population of New Zealand, but rather of people on social media who were happy to fill out our survey.

This post is the second in a series inspired by the Guardian newspaper’s infographic ‘What we die of’ and is a collaboration between myself, chief number cruncher Dr Paul Gardner and data visualisation extraordinaire Dr Mike Dickison. Dr Paul Gardner (@ppgardne) is a Royal Society of NZ Rutherford Discovery Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Bioinformatics at the University of Canterbury’s School of Biological Sciences. He gets very excited about RNA. Dr Mike Dickison (@adzebill) is a freelance information designer with a PhD on the evolution of giant flightless birds. He quite likes ukuleles too. Dr Siouxsie Wiles (@SiouxsieW) is a Health Research Council of NZ Hercus Fellow at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences. She is rather keen on nasty bacteria and anything that glows in the dark.

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