Category : Work

Silicon Valley is having to cope with yet more damaging allegations of harassment and sexism as a prominent engineer accuses her company of creating a hostile work environment that led to her resignation.

Julie Ann Horvath, who was a developer with GitHub, made the allegations public on Twitter and in an interview with technology blog TechCrunch over the weekend.

GitHub, which has raised $100 million in funding, said Sunday night that it would conduct an investigation into Horvath’s claims. The company also said it had placed a co-founder and an engineer on leave.

“I would like to personally apologize to Julie,” GitHub co-founder Chris Wanstrath wrote in the blog post. “It’s certain that there were things we could have done differently.”

Horvath responded on Twitter. “I’m glad it’s being addressed now, but don’t congratulate and praise an org that knew and refused to act for over a year,” she said.

She added: “Nothing will be resolved on my end until both of those men are asked to step down.”

GitHub is just the latest tech company accused of sexism. High-profile voices including Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg have spoken up in recent years to urge the industry to make women feel welcome and supported in Silicon Valley.

The tech industry may be famous for its bravado about changing the world, but it lags behind other industries in its treatment of women, many of whom say they routinely confront sexism.

Horvath’s revelations came as a surprise because she had publicly promoted GitHub as a good place for women to work.

She joined the company in 2012 and headed up Passion Projects, a group that promotes the work of women developers.

But behind the scenes, Horvath told TechCrunch that she was subjected to a pattern of gender discrimination.

Her male colleagues judged her work based on her gender, she said. A male engineer whom she rejected romantically retaliated by removing lines of code from her projects, she said. She recalled male colleagues gawking at two female employees hula-hooping. And she said the wife of a co-founder harassed and intimidated her.

“Every employee deserves a safe work environment and to be respected by their peers,” Horvath said on Twitter.

Horvath did not respond to a request for comment. GitHub also did not respond.

“GitHub has grown incredibly fast over the past two years, bringing a new set of challenges,” Wanstrath said in the blog post. “Nearly a year ago we began a search for an experienced HR Lead and that person came on board in January 2014. We still have work to do. We know that.”

In her new book, ‘The XX Factor,’ Alison Wolf examines the rise of the working woman and why the beauty advantage has a real impact on office politics – except in the few cases where it’s a hindrance.

Just the other day, at a London event, I heard a well-known female columnist singing the praises of a recent program on the BBC. There had been three economists discussing the latest dismal news, she said, all women, and the moderator was female too. “And they were all so nice and polite and kept saying how much they admired the others’ work. Not like men would be at all.”

Well, maybe. Perhaps the producers just failed to find a good cross section of economic opinion that evening. Two weeks after that conversation I was at a symposium in Amsterdam. There were three economists on the platform, all male; and the moderator was male as well. And they were all very nice and very polite and they all kept praising each other’s work as well.

There is some much-publicized evidence that “women don’t ask” for a high starting salary, a raise, a promotion, in situations where men would. There is also well-publicized research suggesting that, in specially staged competitive environments, women are more likely than men to shy away from competition, and men to embrace it. There’s evidence that higher testosterone levels lead to greater risk-taking and, on real trading floors, are associated with greater success. And then there is a whole wealth of evidence showing that boys tend to be much more physically aggressive and openly competitive than girls in the way they play, and in their liking for teams, games and keeping score.

It is this sort of research that leads some people to argue that women will never break through glass ceilings without special help; and others to speculate that, if there had been more women involved in finance (“Lehman Sisters”), the banking crashes of 2008 would never have happened.

Yet overall, the evidence from psychology is—as so often—surprisingly mixed. Women don’t always hold back in mixed company; and even when the men are clearly competing harder, the absolute differences are not always as large as you might imagine from the headlines. As for “not asking,” being less aggressive at work, more risk-averse: yes, the evidence suggests there are male–female differences, and yes, they may be hardwired. But we also know that young men and women these days earn the same, like for like. So even if there are these differences, they don’t seem to be having any very serious effects.

On balance, young women today probably benefit from the sexual signals and sexual dynamics of the mixed workplace. And certainly all the successful young women I interviewed for this book were attractive too. That wasn’t my intention: my interviewees were friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues. But every single one was slim and groomed, with good hair, good skin and good clothes. I would also bet a lot of money that, if I’d been interviewing their male counterparts, I’d have found almost exactly the same thing: maybe a couple of exceptions, but no more than that.

Being good-looking, being slim and radiating good health are all sexually attractive. But the signaling involved goes well beyond the sexual, because the things to which men and women respond are not random sexually or otherwise. They have bedded down in our species because they are signs of a general “fitness.”

People with certain characteristics are likely to make good mates because they are more likely to be healthy, long-lived and successful. They seem likely not just to breed but also to keep the children alive and well. But as humans, our adult lives are about a lot more than reproduction and giving the impression that you are a good bet as a parent. In these other parts of our lives first impressions also matter. In order to do well, we need to convey to other people that we are competent, trustworthy, superior, someone they want to hire and have around. One of the ways we do it is through the characteristics associated with sexual attraction; things that other people respond to automatically, but for good reason.

That is why signaling is not just directly sexual, but general. It is an important part of why beauty pays, and good-looking lawyers earn more. And it is why appearances, and the responses they evoke, don’t fade into irrelevance once a professional woman hits her late thirties. As we can infer from a peacock’s tail.

Peacocks’ Tails and Costly Signaling

Upriver from London, the Thames boasts a succession of manicured riverside pubs. On sunny days, you can drink in the company of Thames Path walkers, owners of small boats, waterbirds, and, at my favorite, peacocks. The cocks stroll around among the drinkers and the peahens, displaying their extraordinary tails on a regular basis. They also fly up to the pub roof, to make their ugly calls. If you only ever saw the birds on the ground, you wouldn’t think such flying was possible; and in a world of fast-moving predators—wild cats, foxes—these tails seem crazy. Which is why they have fascinated evolutionary biologists from Darwin on.

Darwin deduced that, way back, peahens started to prefer mating with males who had large showy tails. This meant that the larger the tail, the more offspring a peacock was likely to have, and over time tails got bigger and bigger still. But why would dowdy, sensibly camouflaged peahens prefer this to a lean, mean fast-flying bird? “Costly signaling” is the answer.

Costly signaling is behavior that is very costly in terms of resources—time, energy, risk or, in humans, money—and also conveys information that has potentially big returns for the signaler. For example, a huge tail takes energy to grow and maintain, and handicaps and endangers its owner. But a peacock with a fine tail therefore proclaims that he is physically a fine, strong and fit specimen who can easily cope with all these demands. And is a desirable mate.

Among nonhuman species, signaling is all about mating and choosing a good parent for your offspring. Among humans it goes much further. We are also interested in choosing people for a much wider range of activities. However, the basic problem is the same. There is a lot about people that we don’t know and we are trying to evaluate their future potential as well as their current worth, as employees, employers, trustees, political leaders.

This is even harder in today’s large and complex human societies than it was in the small groups of our hunter-gatherer past. One reason why there is such intense competition to enter a select few of the world’s universities is the signal that their degree certificates send: not about “reproductive fitness”—that is, the likelihood you’ll produce top-quality offspring—but about your intelligence, application and general fitness for top jobs.

Certificates, however, only take you so far. A lot of human signaling remains face-to-face, whether it’s for elected office, the CEO’s suite or just the good graces of someone you want on your side at work. There, first impressions take in physical attributes, but also the way you dress and behave, and what these seem to say about your backstory…

The XX Factor by Alison Wolf

Research on beauty confirms, time and again, that in the labor market, men benefit or suffer just as much as women: for example, as we saw earlier, male lawyers with good looks gain just as much as good-looking female ones. This seems puzzling at first, since women place much less weight on appearances than men do when choosing husbands: fecundity matters less to women, resources more. However, as we have just seen, signaling by humans goes well beyond specifically sexual encounters. We see physical characteristics as evidence of underlying quality; we like to be among the successful and able. And we definitely like to think that the people we hire are from the top half of the distribution.

Talking about “beauty” makes people think of facial features, but that is only part of it. Body weight and height also matter. Of course, there are individual exceptions; but tall men do significantly better in the labor market than shorter ones, after controlling for education, class, race and general health. And it is not just the very short who suffer a penalty; men in the whole bottom fifth for height are significantly affected. People associate height in men with strength, energy and resources, which is why short male politicians often wear stacked heels; and the labor market data indicate that our perceptions translate into concrete advantage.

Obesity, meanwhile, is bad for your earnings as well as your health, especially if you’re a woman. In laboratory studies, people claim they won’t discriminate against the obese, and then go ahead and do just that. Labor market data for the US and the UK confirm that obese women really suffer for their weight, even more than men do for their height.

This isn’t just because obesity is more common among the poor, although it is. The finding holds true even after controlling for education, family background and health. Obese white women earn a lot less on average than their otherwise-similar peers. I suspect this goes well beyond aesthetics and signals of fecundity. In modern societies, which value slimness and sport, an obese woman is “read” as someone who has little self-control or ability to stick at something difficult (like exercise or a diet). This is then generalized into their likely value as an employee.

All of this helps explain why, in 2010, “of the 16 female United States senators between ages fifty-six and seventy-four, not one has visible gray hair; nor do 90 percent of the women in the House of Representatives.”

Academic lawyer Deborah Rhode, who pointed this out in her attack on the “beauty bias,” finds it demeaning verging on despicable. But these women are behaving in a rational and sensible way. As rising UK politician Liz Truss explained to me: “In politics, one’s gender is quite an important factor in the way people look at you. If you’re an analyst or an accountant, the output is the set of accounts, the report. Whereas if you’re a politician the output is the person. Your physical appearance is more important, the way your voice sounds, your backstory, all of those are important in a way they’re not in many other careers. And the initial impression is very strong.”

Initial impressions are critical for undecided voters on the eve of an election. They are critical on the campaign trail. In the UK system, they are critical in getting your party’s nomination. Local branches of the major parties decide on their candidate at selection meetings at which shortlisted contenders speak and are quizzed. Your performance at such a meeting and the image you project decide your fate.

None of this is specific to women. Elderly Chinese male politicians all have black hair because it’s dyed, not because the Chinese don’t go gray. But signaling and first impressions have very particular implications for women, because looking young and looking healthy, with gleaming hair and clear skin, are prime female signals.

If you’re a female politician, you don’t try to look like a would be topless model. But you do, for very good reason, try to look slim, healthy, attractive and reasonably young. The US senators who worry about gray hairs are not trying to attract mates; their ages are matters of public record, and they are interested in power and influence, not reproduction. They know, however, that age in women is not associated with power and fitness: it is the wrong signal and not one they want to emit. And I bet none of them is obese, either.


Excerpted from The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World by Alison Wolf. Copyright © 2013 by Alison Wolf. Published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.


Today, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization will announce a partnership with Getty Images, one of the largest providers of stock photos for ads and editorial outlets. The “Lean In collection” has over 2,500 images of modern-looking women being doctors, having tattoos, and tending to children without literally juggling them.

a69bc655cShutterstock/Nina Malyna 

Stock photos of women, especially “career women” or “working mothers” are notoriously sexist and often just bizarre. The classic compilation “Women Laughing Alone with Salad” from Edith Zimmerman at The Hairpin illustrates the problem pretty well. More recently, The Cut compiled stock images of “feminism,” which include photos of big-breasted women wearing boxing gloves, climbing ladders in heels, and holding power tools. If you search “feminism” on Shutterstock, another lead provider of stock images, photos of women shaving their imaginary beards appear on the first page of results.


Obviously, it’d be great to have some more realistic options. Sandberg hopes the Getty partnership will help change the way America views women. She told The New York Times, “When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we’re trying to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see.” The Lean In collection features photos of stylish working women (even older women!) and young girls using computers. It also includes images of men caring for children. While the models are all conventionally attractive, they’re not exclusively white.

The partnership is typical of Sandberg’s non-profit organization: it fights open sexism and a portion of the proceeds go right back to Lean In. Feminist Twitter is already on board.

Lead image by NotarYES via Shutterstock. 

By Allie Jones at thewire

Mary Barra takes the reins at General Motors this month. Is her ascension a part of a larger change for women in traditionally male-dominated industries? Yes and no.

Mary Barra officially starts as General Motors’ CEO on Jan. 15, marking an important milestone of progress for professional women. The 105-year old car company is an iconic American corporation and the automotive industry is tied to notions of traditional masculinity more than other sectors.

But does Barra’s elevation signal a transformative change in the auto and manufacturing sectors? Or is it an anomaly that merely gives the illusion of progress for women?

The answer to both questions may be yes. Prominent women executives highlight the symbolic importance of having a visible female executive to inspire and mentor lower-ranked women, and to counter the unspoken assumption in many minds that a woman couldn’t fill a C-level position.

“There’s no doubt there’s a dearth of women in leadership roles at publicly traded companies,” says Kim Bowers, CEO of CST Brands, one of North America’s largest convenience retailers. “It takes time in the seat to move into a C-suite role. Industries that start out typically male will take longer [to change].”

According to a recent report by Catalyst, the discouraging reality is that for the fourth year in a row, 14.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs were female. Board progress has stalled even longer — no significant change for eight years, with women holding only 16.9% of corporate board seats in 2013. Women occupied only 8.1% of top earner positions, representing no change from Catalyst’s 2012 report.

But looking closely at the most and least male-dominated industries reveals counterintuitive findings. The five sectors in which women have the strongest chance at advancing to CEO are retail-trade (18.6%), finance and insurance (17.6%), oil and gas (16.9%), science and technology services (15.5%), and nondurable goods manufacturing (15.2%). You might not expect to see finance, energy, or technology on that list.

The five sectors where women are least represented in the C-suite are construction (4.3%), arts and entertainment (6.3%), management (6.9%), real estate (9.5%), and durable goods manufacturing (11.2%). When Barra (who was No. 29 on Fortune’s 2013 Most Powerful Women list) takes on the CEO role at GM the durable goods manufacturing number will go up slightly.

The fact remains that the highest percentage of female CEOs — 18.6%, in retail — is rather low given that more than 50% of college and advanced degree earners are women.

“We haven’t made a lot of progress, in my opinion. There’s a lot of holding and gating factors,” says Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3, an Austin-based digital agency, who says she has often been the only woman in a room of high-level executives. “A lot of companies will say, secretly, we’ve got two potential candidates: the woman and the guy, both qualified, but better bet on the guy because we think he’ll follow through. We think he’ll be willing to stay later at night if we need him to.”

It’s hard to say whether Barra is part of a new wave of women CEOs who will pave the way for a new generation of female leadership in male-dominated industries or simply an anomaly. Women held only 24.2% of all automotive manufacturing jobs and 16% of executive or senior level positions in 2012, according to Catalyst. And the broader numbers tracked by Catalyst certainly paint a picture of stalled progress in the last decade. Bowers believes that women will eventually break through, as the millennial generation advances to middle management and eventually takes over top roles.

“All these male-dominated industries — be they tech, finance, or automotive — would do better with more women,” says Sharon Meers, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and co-author of Getting to 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All. “The research proves out that when you have more women in the room, you have better decision-making. It’s just a fact.”

katherine lewis By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

When asked who is responsible for taking care of the Christmas tasks – almost every time the woman of the family say they do the work.

With only three shopping days left before Christmas, there’s a lot to get done. But who does it all, and do men do their fair share?

New research finds that women are bearing much of the work this Christmas – much more than men.

Those who are married or single but living with a partner are asked, firstly, who is mainly responsible for a series of Christmas tasks. In every case except one (doing the washing up), more women say they are responsible for the work than do men.

69% of women say they send out the Christmas cards, while only 12% of men say the same. Buying the presents is split female to male by 61%-8%; doing the food shopping by 54%-13%; and cooking the Christmas dinner by 51%-17%.

Christmas housework

If everyone was telling the truth, the percentage of people saying their partner does the work would be the same as the percentage of partners saying they do the work themselves. This is not the case, however: much of the time men are less likely to say their partner does the work than women are to say that they do it themselves, and more likely to say they spread it out evenly between them.

Couples are also asked who drinks the most (39% of men say they do, compared to only 14% of women) and who falls asleep first on the day itself (38% of men, 13% of women).

Chrstmas moments

Men only seem more altruistic when it comes to presents: 34% of men say their partner gets the most expensive presents compared to only 9% of women, and 28% of men say their partner gets the most presents compared to 5% of women.

Some have complained that it is the media that perpetuates the idea that women should do all the work. Last Christmas 600 people complained that a festive TV campaign was sexist. The advert showed a harassed mother swamped with festive preparations, and ended with the line “Behind every great Christmas there’s mum”.

When women network with men after work are they look upon differently?

For years women have been told to fight for their seat at the table. Lean in. Break the glass ceiling.

That’s easier said than done. Business dinners might seem anodyne, but many professional women find that talking business over dinner with a male boss, mentor or colleague can be all too easily misunderstood by people who think there may something else there. Even in 2013, long past the age of chaperones, a woman and a man dining or drinking together are rarely thought to be business partners.

That locks women out of potential wheeling and dealing after work. Whether it’s dinner or drinks, women find they have to think twice about networking and exploring all the same career advancement opportunities that men are privy to.

“Obviously we women want the same the opportunities as men. If John can have dinner with Mike, why shouldn’t you or I be able to?” asks Carol Roth, a CNBC contributor and author of the book, The Entrepreneur Equation.

Roth recently wrote a blog post for CNBC encouraging women to throw off the shackles of negative perception after both a male client and her husband suggested that her one-on-one dinner meeting with another male client was improper and unusual – merely because they believed a man and a woman out together will always look as if they are on a date.

I went to dinner, as planned. It was great and I’m unaware if anyone looked at us sideways – but if they did, it should be their problem, not mine.

Flirty, or aggressive?

Adding to the issue is that men often misinterpret friendliness from a woman as sexual interest or flirting. Signals are easily misinterpreted. One former Merrill Lynch financial adviser recalls being told to keep his office door open when talking with female clients.

“I have a sarcastic sense of humor, that’s often interpreted as flirty banter. But that’s just how I express myself,” says Roth. “We women have to be hyper aware that we are giving off these unintentional signals.”

However, not all women are as comfortable dismissing public opinion. It seems regressive, but there is a lesson that “many women in male-dominated professions – particularly Wall Street – have long understood: one wrong step, and they suffer far harsher consequences than men in similar positions.” Men rarely face the same scrutiny of their behavior and reputations.

As for the perception of the onlookers and potential effects on the reputation, Roth says: “If a woman wants to take a step back, because she doesn’t want to blemish her reputation, that’s her choice. But we have to take a seat at the table and not let ourselves be relegated to the kids table.”

Yet it’s common, even now, for women to be lectured on how they behave and look. Women’s public images are often considered communal property by companies or business partners. The law firm Clifford Chance recently chided its female partners for allegedly showing cleavage and giggling. In 2011, UBS offered a detailed 44-page memo that asked women to wear “light makeup” and dress in the “female equivalent” of a man’s dark suit, white shirt and red tie. In an interview a few years ago, Billie Williamson, Ernst & Young’s company’s Americas inclusiveness officer, told the Wall Street Journal that men were coached how to provide critical feedback to their female mentees – like telling women to dress more professionally and how to handle crying women.

The issue at the heart of the problem is that many of the networking opportunities are organized around male interests like golfing, sports and male bonding, found a study by Herminia Ibarra, professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD. That kind of networking effectively shuts women out of opportunities to advance their careers.

While men are getting sponsored, women, placed under close scrutiny, are getting “mentored to death”. For men, sponsorship “just happens. Your boss looks out for you, and makes sure to place you,” Ibarra told the Harvard Business Review in 2010.

Whereas for women, that’s a lot trickier, for a whole host of different reasons. Sometimes very subtle and implicit biases in the workplace, sometimes just the lack of chemistry that comes with not being similar to your boss in different ways. They were not getting that sponsorship. They were getting mentoring. They were getting coaching. They were getting developmental advice. But they were not getting fought for and protected, and really put out there.

Women need to be free to network in order to seek appropriate mentors, says Roth – whether it’s in an office or over dinner. “If the appropriate mentors happen to be men, great. If they end up being women, great. If they end up being muppets, great,” she says. But she concedes she has a long way to go before that message catches on.

About two months ago, Dr. Elizabeth Stier was shocked to learn that she would lose a vital credential, board certification as a gynecologist, unless she gave up an important part of her medical practice and her research: taking care of men at high risk for anal cancer.

The disease is rare, but it can be fatal and its incidence is increasing, especially among men and women infected with H.I.V. Like cervical cancer, anal cancer is usually caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is sexually transmitted.

Though most of her patients are women, Dr. Stier, who works at Boston Medical Center, also treated about 110 men last year, using techniques adapted from those developed to screen women for cervical cancer.

But in September, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology insisted that its members treat only women, with few exceptions, and identified the procedure in which Dr. Stier has expertise as one that gynecologists are not allowed to perform on men. Doctors cannot ignore such directives from a specialty board, because most need certification to keep their jobs.

Now Dr. Stier’s studies are in limbo, her research colleagues are irate, and her male patients are distraught. Other gynecologists who had translated their skills to help male patients are in similar straits.

And researchers about to start a major clinical trial that is aimed at preventing anal cancer, with $5.6 million from the National Cancer Institute, say the board’s decision will keep some of the best qualified, most highly skilled doctors in the United States from treating male patients in the study. The director of the planned study and Dr. Stier have asked the gynecology board to reconsider its position.

But the board, based in Dallas, has not budged.

Anoscopy and other techniques aimed at preventing anal cancer have not been rigorously tested, and the purpose of the planned clinical trial is to determine whether they work. Five thousand patients, men and women, are to be studied for eight years, ultimately costing tens of millions of dollars.

If the trial shows that cancers can be prevented, it could change the standard of care, Dr. Douglas R. Lowy, a deputy director of the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute, said in an interview.

Doctors planning to participate in the trial have had extensive training in high-resolution anoscopy. People with various types of medical training can learn the procedure, but experts say that gynecologists are the quickest to master it because of their experience in screening women.

“We need as many trained people as possible,” said Dr. Joel Palefsky, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who will direct the study. “The assumption all along has been that many of the gynecologists we trained would participate in the study and would see both men and women.”

Dr. Stier had been treating men for more than 10 years, and expected to enroll about 100 in the study. Now, she will be able to enroll only women. She is the only person with the special training at her hospital, so now another hospital will have to sign up more men.

But what really worries her is what will become of the men she has been treating. Those who had precancers need to be examined once or twice a year, because the growths tend to recur. Dr. Stier said the procedures are embarrassing and uncomfortable for patients, and it takes time for a doctor to gain their trust. Many of her patients are poor, from minority groups and infected with H.I.V. Some live in shelters, some have histories of drug use. And anal disorders add more stigma. “My main issue here is that I don’t think my patients are going to get the follow-up that they need, and I think they’re going to be lost to care, and we take care of a very vulnerable patient population,” Dr. Stier said.

Dr. Einstein had also been treating some male patients and had planned to enroll men in the new trial. Like Dr. Stier, he was blindsided by the gynecology board’s notice.

He said only three doctors at his hospital had special training in high-resolution anoscopy, and that was nowhere near enough. Now two of those doctors, including himself, have to stop treating men.

“I think we’ll see significant setbacks,” Dr. Einstein said.

“We haven’t heard of any compelling reason to change anything,” said Dr. Kenneth L. Noller, the board’s director of evaluation. He said there were plenty of other doctors available to provide the HPV-related procedures that some gynecologists had been performing on men.

Dr. Larry C. Gilstrap, the group’s executive director, said the specialty of obstetrics and gynecology was specifically designed to treat problems of the female reproductive tract and was “restricted to taking care of women.” Of the 24 medical specialties recognized in the United States, he said, it is the only one that is gender-specific, and it has been that way since 1935.

Dr. Stier said that she, like many other doctors, had not understood the definition of their field to be quite so absolute.

The board had always regarded the treatment of women as its mission, Dr. Gilstrap said, but felt a particular need to emphasize it now because the specialty’s image was being tarnished by members who had strayed into moneymaking sidelines, like testosterone therapy for men, and liposuction and other cosmetic procedures for both women and men.

Dr. Mark H. Einstein, a gynecologic oncologist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, said, “The board’s approach is to be rather dogmatic and to draw a line in the sand.”

On Sept. 12, the board posted on its website a stringent and newly explicit definition of obstetrician-gynecologists, limiting the proportion of time they could spend on nongynecologic procedures and noting that, with few exceptions, members must not treat men. The notice specifically prohibited gynecologists from performing an examination called anoscopy on men.

Anoscopy involves using a tube and a light to examine the anal canal, which is about 1.5 inches long. The procedure is the same in men and women. A “high-resolution” version adds a magnifier to look for abnormal growths that may be cancers or precancers. Cancers usually require surgery, but doctors can burn off precancers in hopes of preventing cancer.

A similar approach led to a tremendous decline in cervical cancer in the United States, and doctors hope to accomplish the same for anal cancer. About 7,000 new cases of anal cancer, and 880 deaths, are expected in 2013 in the United States; the incidence has been increasing by 2.2 percent a year for the last 10 years.

When it comes to attitudes about women in the workplace and having a female boss, Americans have come a long way in the last 60 years — around 40 percent have no preference to the gender of their boss, up from 25 percent in 1953. But for those who have a preference, men are still favored by an 11 point margin, a gap driven by women who don’t want a female boss.

According to a poll from Gallup, 40 percent of the women say they prefer a male boss, 27 percent prefer a female one, and 32 percent have no preference. On the other hand, 29 percent of men polled prefer a male boss, 18 percent prefer a female one, and 51 percent had no preference.

The ideal number we all want is 100 percent to say gender doesn’t matter. Preference for a female boss is obviously a step up from no one wanting a female boss (in 1953, 66 percent of people polled preferred a male boss), but it’s not the ideal. The unavoidable question then becomes: Why don’t some women like it when women break the glass ceiling? In fact, there appears to be high demand for articles by women about how terrible it is to work for women. As Elizabeth Spiers wrote of the furious reaction to Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer, “Everyone applauds when they shatter that glass ceiling. Then they pick up the shards, and start cutting away.” It is often women who perpetuate the dumbest stereotypes about working with women.

“Bad female boss? She may have Queen Bee Syndrome,” reads an article from the Today show from 2011. “She’s the alpha female in the workplace who tries to preserve power at all costs,” Robi Ludwig, a woman, explained, trying to diagnose a syndrome that apparently only occurs in women. And the article goes on to try and explain how the “Queen Bee” is a very real and very common thing:

The Queen Bee boss is the alpha female who tries to preserve her power at all costs. Instead of promoting her younger counterparts, she feels threatened by them, judges them, talks about them and, in many cases, ends up obstructing their attempts to climb the corporate ladder.

This Forbes article, “How To Work For A Female Boss,”  isn’t any better. It’s by a woman for women, and it explains tips which all involve treating a female supervisor the way you would a hungry alligator. The article reads:

The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter if you like your female boss or not, if you think she should have the job or not, if you have a problem with her or not. The only thing you need to do is let her know you know she’s the boss. In the end, it may behoove you to remember that she may not be looking for power at all, but respect.

Shoudn’t you let your boss know that you know that he or she is the boss, regardless of gender? Isn’t that just boss protocol?

If you do a bit more searching, you will find there are a plethora of articles about how to work for a female boss that range from how-to guides for men to explaining why female bosses are “a women’s worst nightmare.”  I tried to search for articles with terms like “How to treat a male boss,” or “Bad Male boss,” “How to work for a man,” and didn’t come up with anything close to those articles.

While those kinds of articles are tips and guides to deal with female, they are actually pretty damaging. They push employees to believe that the reason their boss is bad is something uniquely related to her being a woman. And it also pits women against women and perpetuates the shopworn Mean Girls trope.

Looking at female bosses in television and film, you kinda see similar things. Really successful bosses like Miranda Priestly from the Devil Wears Prada and Katharine Parker from Working Girl, Joan from Mad Men, and Margaret Tate from The Proposal (yes I watched this) are very successful bosses who are pretty terrible, disloyal conniving people (Joan being the least awful among them) and who built their success on being not nice people. On the other side of it, you have goofball bosses like Leslie Knope and Liz Lemon who are really likable people, but are punchlines for being sexless and sad. In other words, finding a boss who’s a female that you actually want to be and admire — we came up with Murphy Brown maybe? — is a lot tougher than finding all these examples.

Gallup explains that there are a lot of factors into why someone would prefer their boss be a man or a woman, and how actually working with a woman can change someone’s attitude — meaning that all this stuff people read and all this stuff people are taught don’t match up to the actual data of people who work with women. “It is also possible that the experience of working for a female boss affects workers’ preferences. If the latter is the case, and if the proportion of U.S. workers who have female bosses increases in the future, the current preference for a male boss in the overall population could dissipate,” Gallup explains. So there’s hope yet.

Ada Lovelace Day asks people to think about the women that have inspired them to be the person that they are today. The Day remembers the incredible woman who developed   the world’s first computer program – long before computers existed – and asks us to consider and write about all those women who work in tech and   other male-dominated fields, like science, engineering or manufacturing.

The first Ada Lovelace Day in 2009 saw more than 1,200 people write about the women they admire who work in STEM and four years later, the Day is still going strong.

In the spirit of Ada Lovelace Day, here are 10 women that have been an   inspiration to me, both during my childhood, and as my academic career has   developed.

Jean Golding

Jean’s a pretty remarkable woman, and I was lucky enough to interview her   recently for a book about women in science and technology, published today. Jean was instrumental in setting up Children of the 90s, a multi-generational birth cohort, which   recruited about 14,000 pregnant women in the early 1990s, and followed them, their children, and other family members since then. This dataset (which I’m lucky enough to work on) is an incredibly detailed study, with interviews   and questionnaires being completed by the participants, as well as   biological samples collected. It began before the kids were born, and is   still going now, over 20 years later. Jean’s vision as to what data would   need collecting means the dataset is being used today for cutting edge   genetic and epigenetic research.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Jocelyn was still a PhD student when she made a discovery which won her   supervisors a Nobel Prize (a lot of people at the time, and since, believe   she was very unfairly overlooked for the prize).

She was using a radio telescope to study quasars, when she noticed a weird   signal. Rather than ignoring it, she investigated further. It turned out to   be the first recording of a pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star.

And how could I not be impressed by the woman whose pulsar became a truly   iconic image, after it was pictured on a Joy Division album cover?!

Athene Donald










Athene was   voted by The Daily Telegraph as one of Britain’s 100 most powerful women,   and it’s easy to see why. She was the first female physics lecturer at   Cambridge University, and since then, as well as having a highly successful   academic career, has done a great deal to support women in physics, and   science and technology more generally.

Her blog, on Occam’s   Typewriter, abounds with honesty about being a woman in science, and   I’ve found a lot of the posts to be incredibly interesting and useful; full   of guidance for early career scientists like myself.

Sophie Scott

I’d been in the same room as Sophie   Scott (pictured) for approximately 30 seconds when I realised I   wanted to be her when I grew up (disclaimer: this was earlier this summer).

I was interviewing her about a piece of kit, an MRI scanner: perhaps not a   particularly thrilling topic, but she was making me laugh so much I was   worried I was ruining the recording.

Sophie is a neuroscientist of high regard, and has done some fascinating   research on speech perception, including, amongst other things,   understanding laughter. When she’s not in the lab she can on occasion be   found onstage, where she’s an excellent stand-up comic too. Awesome or what?

Helen Czerski

Helen’s barely older than me, but the amount she’s achieved in her career to   date is utterly inspiring. She’s already established herself as a very   successful physicist and oceanographer, working in Cambridge, Toronto, Los   Alamos National Lab, Scripps in San Diego and Rhode Island, before moving to   Southampton University.

Not only this though, she somehow squeezes in media and broadcasting roles,   including most recently as a presenter on the excellent Dara O’Briain’s   Science Club for the BBC. And anyone who, on   her website, lists hot chocolate among her passions, is alright by   me.

Helen Sharman

I was lucky enough to have been brought up by parents who instilled in me the   belief that I could do anything I wanted to, could be anything I wanted to   be. At age seven or eight, this was an astronaut, after a trip to the   Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and witnessing Discovery launch from our   motel balcony.

My parents were also realists though, and pointed out that since I was once   seasick on a pedalo, space travel may not be for me. But around the time I   had this dream, a British woman was up there living it.

In 1991, Helen   Sharman (pictured above) became the first British person in   space, as part of project Juno. She won the place after a rigorous selection   process, and spent eight days in space, mostly on the Mir space station. I   bet she was never seasick on a pedalo.

Angela Attwood

Ange is co-director of my lab group, the Tobacco   and Alcohol research group at the University of Bristol. She   is the academic equivalent of a swan: presenting a serene image, which   almost belies the incredibly hard work she puts in to her highly successful   career in addiction research. Not only is she active in research, but she   lectures, manages the lab group, and is in charge of a number of students,   both undergraduate and postgraduate.

She always has time to offer advice to members of the group, including myself,   struggling with work or more personal issues, and I feel privileged to work   with her.

Barbara Sahakian


Every August, my lab group head to Harrogate, for the British   Association of Psychopharmacology’s summer meeting. It’s a little   bit like a family holiday, but with a lot of excellent science thrown in.   The current president of the society is Barbara Sahakian, and she is   awesome.

Barbara (pictured) is an internationally renowned neuropsychopharmacologist,   meaning she researches how drugs affect the brain. She co-invented a battery   of tests used by psychologists and neuroscientists across the world, and has   recently spoken extensively to the public about neuroethics, in particular   related to the use (or abuse) of Alzheimer’s and dementia treatments by   healthy people, as cognitive enhancers.

Dorothy Hodgkin

Apparently Dorothy hated the phrase ‘role model’. However, as the only British   woman to win a Nobel Prize for science, it’s not surprising that people   were, and still are, inspired by her.

As early as the 1930s, Dorothy was using the then very new technique of X-ray   crystallography to ascertain the structures of various complex proteins and   other biological molecules, including penicillin, vitamin B12, and insulin.   As well as studying at both Oxford and Cambridge, Dorothy was Chancellor at   the University of Bristol later in her career, and a building named in her   honour stands testament to her legacy.

While chancellor she campaigned against cuts in university budgets. She also   spent a lot of time travelling abroad to foster exchange programmes to bring   scientists and students from developing countries over to use the resources   of western institutions.

Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth is another inspiring lady with ties to Bristol, where I live and study. She was born here, before at age 11, moving with her family to the USA in 1832. There, she would become the first woman in USA to be awarded a medical degree, by the Geneva Medical College in upstate New York.

She later returned to the UK, and became the first woman on the General Medical Council’s medical register. She, and her sister Emily, who also gained a medical degree, blazed a trail for female doctors, both in the USA and the UK, encouraging women who followed in their footsteps, both then and now.






A Passion For Science is published on October 15, to coincide with Ada   Lovelace Day. All profits will go towards supporting Ada Lovelace Day and   the FindingAda website.

Suzi Gage is a translational epidemiology PhD student at the University of   Bristol, studying relationships between recreational drug use and mental   health. She also starred in a certain   spoof video about women in science and regularly   blogs about all things science. She tweets @soozaphone.








Did you know an estimated ten percent of Executive Chefs in the U.S. are women? Hot Bread Kitchen’s stated mission is to leverage the buying power of the food industry to create professional opportunities for low-income immigrant women. While that is true, our secret agenda is to change the gender dynamic of the culinary industry and get more women in the kitchen. To help advance our secret agenda, we launched the Women Bake Bread Scholarship program on Crowdrise.

In 2008, I began Hot Bread Kitchen out of my home as a baking job training program for immigrant women. As a former United Nations policy analyst, I had travelled the world researching migration patterns, while eating my way through each countries’ local dishes. Everywhere I travelled, I saw women standing over stoves and communal ovens, women cooking for their families and feeding their communities.
Upon my return to New York, my appetite for these regional dishes didn’t fade, but my ability to find them did. When I ate in local restaurants, it was always men in the kitchen. Where were the women? Did they forego their culinary heritage and skill upon immigrating to the U.S.? I realized that the answer to these questions was no, but they were instead selling food in the street or cooking in people’s homes.
Accessing formal, living-wage positions in food manufacturing often eluded immigrant women because of their unfamiliarity with the English language, lack of formal training, or the absence of professional networks. As a result, immigrant women are the most vulnerable sector of the labor force, paid less than native women or foreign-born men and often abused in the workplace. Hot Bread Kitchen overcomes these barriers to entry by providing paid, on-the-job baking and English fluency training, coupled with job training services. By placing women in management-track positions in the food industry, we are helping them to build economic security for their families—but job placements are also part of our master plan. By placing and promoting immigrant women in leadership positions in the food industry, we are undoubtedly shifting the traditionally male-dominated nature of the business of food in the United States.

Support our now not-so-secret agenda by donating to the Women Bake Bread Scholarship program. Each week, we will release new prizes, like secret supper clubs and private cookie baking classes to help incentivize donors. Our goal is to raise $100,000 by October 30, 2013 so we definitely need the support of the GOOD community to give a damn, donate, and spread the word.