AWIS/SWE questions to presidential candidates

i-f875c0b07d9b3cb6229668554781b35a-alice.jpgDid you know the Association for Women in Science and the Society for Women Engineers asked both presidential campaigns for responses to questions about science and engineering and women's roles in each. Download the pdf here to see the questions and the candidates responses. Read them through and be edified. (I tried to copy and paste them here, but it turned into a formatting nightmare - even all the spaces were screwed up...)

What do you think of their responses?

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I think McCain's answers are not unexpected but still totally appalling.

Like that dodge on HR6314? "I oppose discrimination on the basis of sex"? Meaning affirmative action efforts, of course, since the rightwing position is that this is "discrimination" against those who are currently privileged.

Title IX? It has been with us since 1972 and everything is somehow Bill Clinton's fault Sen McCain? Are you kidding? Even if you had a substantive point, this is absurd.

Re: NSF, ADVANCE, etc. McCain "I will support programs that
increase the representation of women in science fields in a cost-effective manner without resort to preferences on the basis of sex."

No, no John, I think your answer on the anti-affirmative-action initiatives in Nebraska and Colorado was clear enough, we get it. You are against anything that has a whiff of helping those that are currently disadvantaged because of their skin tone or dangly bits or whathaveyou. Just stop lying with misdirection. Step up and admit to your policies. If you believe in them...why are you trying to pretend that you do not?

Final thought for politicians. We're on to your dogwhistles. You will be called out.

On his last answer, Obama promises to double the budget for the National Institute of Science and Technology, which is in India. In the US, NIST stands for National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The Chronicle ran this doozie earlier in the week about Title IX:

I hate to say it but both candidates are saying what every candidate since 1972 has said... I'm sooo tired of lip service. We need Title IX to be enforced - like we need the Endangered Species Act to be funded and enforced.

When McWhack said "without resort to preferences on the basis of sex", all I hear is "white males are entitled to keep non-preferentially hiring white males." That's entirely WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. We NEED preferences to sex, dammit - obviously, a law from 1972 isn't enough if it's written down somewhere and not applied/enforced. We NEED to make white male dominated environments less hostile to women "intruders", less isolating, etc., and the only way to do that is to actively target members of the opposite (god, I love being opposite) sex! *preaching to the choir*

I've been saying this forever... but here we go again. White males in my field care about diversity OUTSIDE.... as in the singing birds and buzzing bees. Diversity matters in abundance, population trends, community composition... but the minute the white males step foot INSIDE, the la-la-la "we need diversity" eco-mantra disappears. They see the diversity value outside with non-humans but want a sea of white males indoors. Makes me crazy.

I feel like the damn ivory-billed woodpecker...rare or extinct or gonna be extinct soon. I wonder if the white boys hunting down all-important-diversity ever considered that the millions of dollars they are throwing OUT THE WINDOW literally in search of "precious" (a single woodpecker) is meaningless. Then what? The state bird list gets a checkmark... work done. It's like decades ago, men LET women in... and yup, work's done. check. More women popped up since then. checkity checkity check.

The white dudes I work with see nothing wrong with "women in science"... we aren't "precious", we are present - they say "look, she's a prof and over there, she's a prof", "see women science profs exist!", "what's the problem?", "there's a problem?", "where?"!! The "present" box is checkity checked!?!

Community composition matters OUTSIDE.... we count numbers of each type, we count sex ratios, we report statistical differences. We even have breeding programs to beef up the numbers of female fish in male-dominated isolated populations! But inside... nope (does anyone consider Title IX an indoor human female academic non-enforced breeding program??? - maybe we need to give Title IX a new catchy name??? to appeal teh wite malez). Endangered Females Act?

A female STEM prof is a "yes, no" answer.... to "women present?" and according to the masses (teh wite malez) certainly not in imperiled status (but I think that imperiled means no one is holding a gun to her head). But a female deer... outside doe season... bad. very bad. no guns. I mean, really... we need females around to make more bucks to shoot.

Thanks for posting the link, Alice! I got the feeling that McCain didn't bother to even read some of the questions, much less care about most of the issues addressed.

You know, I feel better about how I'm casting my vote every time I look at one of these side-by-side answers to the myriad of questions that concern me. Of interest to me was McCain's avoidance of any discussion around gender and the sole mention of class occurred in conjunction with "failing schools." Thanks Alice!

By random student (not verified) on 17 Oct 2008 #permalink

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the first question asked the candidates their response to the recommendations of a National Academy report I co-authored - >
Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.

The question was: In a September 2006 report, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, the National Academies stated that, in order to maintain scientific and engineering leadership amid increasing economic and educational globalization, the United States must aggressively pursue the innovative capacity of all people, regardless of sex. Although women make up almost half of the U.S. workforce, they continue to be underrepresented in STEM professions, particularly in the higher academic faculty ranks and leadership positions. As President of the United States, how do you plan to address the need for more women in STEM?

I was disappointed that McCain appears not to have even read the report as his response talks about issues of access in K-12 education, which was not at all related to the report's recommendations on women in higher education and in the profession in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. Based on the details provided in Obama's response, it is clear that he (or his staff) read the report in detail. I thought there was more thoughtfullness and depth to Obama's responses to the other questions as well.

I love this report! I was not sure whether to vote for Obama and now this seals the deal. He is clearly the only candidate who has a clue on this issue. I am a grad student in organic chemistry and the hostile sexist environment is excruciating. This argument of McCain's that affirmative action is unfair to men is so old and completely ridiculous. He totally forgets that men are the benefactors of positive discrimination all the time. All affirmative action does is give the rest of us a fighting chance. It still falls short of assuring gender equality.

I love the report Beyond Bias and Barriers. Alice Agogino, a co-author of the report and commenter on this page, spoke at my University a couple years ago about it. That was the first time I could rationally understand the miserable experience I was having in graduate school. It was definitely an "Ah-Ha" moment. She was an amazing speaker and is quite a brilliant scientist.

As a radical militant feminist male, I have come to realize that unless men self-identify as feminists, they are my enemy.

John McCain is clearly the enemy and as such he is an easy target for the commenters on this post. Just give him enough rope and he will hang himself.

Obama however, pretends to be better. Does he not remember the audience for these answers? There is a time for political speech and a time to come out strong in support of women. This is one of those times. He simply doesn't go far enough to prove that he is different from all the other sexist men who have run for president.

Don't forget that his refusal to ask Hillary Clinton to be his VP proves that indeed he is sexist, and it is the ultimate slap in the face to women and feminists in the U.S.

"Don't forget that his refusal to ask Hillary Clinton to be his VP proves that indeed he is sexist, and it is the ultimate slap in the face to women and feminists in the U.S."

I don't agree with this. He's under no obligation to ask Hillary to be his VP, just because she's a woman. Don't insult our intelligence, you're as bad as McCain, thinking we'll vote for him because he has a woman for VP candidate.

By another chemist (not verified) on 19 Oct 2008 #permalink

If Obama was really a feminist he would have stepped aside and let Hillary Clinton win the nomination. The absolute equality of women is THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE facing the world today, bar none.
McCain might think that you will vote for him because he has a woman as his running mate, but I certainly don't think that.
I do hope that every time you are filled with hatred for Sarah Palin, you remember that instead of a woman in the Oval Office, we will have just another member of the old boys club.

If Obama really wants to help the feminist cause, Hillary Clinton should get a powerful cabinet post rather than the jar of warm piss otherwise known as the VP.

Also, I don't think Obama is a feminist. I think he's going out of his way to not be an *ist of any sort.
His general approach just doesn't seem to indicate he's a OMG THERE IS ONLY ONE ISSUE!!111!!!ELEVENTY! sort of individual. Personally I think that, in addition to that being a sign of his general intellectual vigor, that's the only approach that should be electable in a country as diverse as ours.