GROW to receive the 2020 AMS Mathematics Programs That Make a Difference Award

From the AMS: The AMS, through its Committee on the Profession, is pleased to recognize the Graduate Research Opportunities for Women (GROW) Program with the 2020 Mathematics Programs That Make a Difference Award. (Photo: GROW 2019 participants, courtesy of Zoi Rapti.)

GROW is an annual series of conferences that nurture, mentor, and expose undergraduate women to the opportunities that await a career in mathematics. Funded by the National Science Foundation and participating universities, the GROW Program is in its fifth year and has served hundreds of participants. Over this short span, GROW has built a community which, as much as the conference programming itself, has helped to make the mathematics profession a more appealing place for women to live and work. Through feedback, GROW steadily improves and creates best practices for future iterations as well as for replication.

Read more about GROW at the link.

Update (04 May 2020): See the AMS Notices citation here. See also the AMS Notices article here.

Work-Life Balance in the Time of COVID-19

From Bloomberg, another foreseeable consequence of coronavirus: Three Hours Longer, the Pandemic Workday Has Obliterated Work-Life Balance.

An executive at JPMorgan Chase & Co. gets unapologetic messages from colleagues on nights and weekends, including a notably demanding one on Easter Sunday. A web designer whose bedroom doubles as an office has to set an alarm to remind himself to eat during his non-stop workday. At Intel Corp., a vice president with four kids logs 13-hour days while attempting to juggle her parenting duties and her job.

COVID-19, Social Justice, and Higher Education

From QSIDE: The Policies Analysis: Spring Semester 2020 (PASS’20) project seeks $10,000 to crowdsource the gathering of COVID-19 grading policies at approximately 1500 not-for-profit colleges and universities offering four-year degrees. The goal of this timely work is to shine a light on grading policies’ effects on inclusion, diversity, and equity. Different schemes for reading Spring 2020 transcripts could disenfranchise students from underrepresented groups. PASS’20 centers on understanding the distribution and magnitude of this disenfranchisement.

See also this tweet about the project from Prof. Courtney Gibbons.

To the Instructors Who Can’t Wash Their Hair

An essay from Inside Higher Ed responding to their own tone-deaf essay about distance learning. The original post (not shared here, to discourage dissemination of outdated ideas) continues the sexist narrative of women instructors being held to unreasonable physical standards: “In a world where conversations around us are terrifying, a student who has perceived Dr. Jones as a strong female role model, who is polished and eloquent at all times in the classroom, may be quite alarmed indeed to find Dr. Jones wearing her Pokémon pajamas with disheveled, unwashed hair.” (emphasis added)

The response makes really important points. For instance: “This global pandemic has illuminated gross disparities. Some students and instructors are returning to homes without running water or food. African Americans and other patients of color face higher levels of death than their white neighbors from COVID-19. Now more than ever, our students and our colleagues need to accept our hair in all its unkempt, greasy reality. We need to acknowledge that, while some instructors can host Zoom chats with perfect fishtail braids, others may not have a webcam to show students their hair in the first place. Even before the pandemic began, many of our black colleagues have been criticized for having “unprofessional” hairstyles.”

In this blogger’s personal opinion, however, the response doesn’t go far enough to repair the damage caused by the original essay. Much of the response focuses on the fact that the author is physically unable to wash her hair, so please don’t list hair-washing as a requirement of quality instruction. Reasonable, right? Then the focus on other disparities in perceptions, access, and so on like the ones quoted above. These are, without question, very important points.

The damage comes from continuing an unreasonable narrative which claims that the only reason you shouldn’t maintain perfect physical appearance is if you are literally physically unable to. To be fair, the response goes on later to be more flexible, and at the very end to address these points exactly. But these seem to be afterthoughts, and by that point the damage is done. It’s like IHE can only apologize by saying sorry, not sorry.

See our previous post (CW: language) about the original IHE essay here.

The pandemic and the female academic

From Nature: Academic work — in which career advancement is based on the number and quality of a person’s scientific publications, and their ability to obtain funding for research projects — is basically incompatible with tending to children. I expect that data on publication records over the next couple of years will show that parents in academia were disadvantaged relative to non-parents in 2020….

The beginning of an academic career is marked by a prolonged period of precariousness, one which coincides with women’s reproductive period. The term maternal wall, referring to the discrimination and limitations faced by working mothers, has been in use for well over a decade. Policies such as guaranteed work leave and accommodations to care for family members can be particularly important for women. One immediate idea is to count this period of lockdown as care leave for those tending to any dependent family member, and this can be considered when they are later evaluated, for example, in an open competition for career advancement. This might be extremely helpful for families that are even more disadvantaged during this time — particularly those with single parents, who are more likely to be women.