More On Bro Culture

This summer, since my Women in Space Physics post, I have been attuned to writings about women in the workforce, especially STEM fields, and on the prevalence of “bro culture.” Like the From the Prow blog post from AGU President Margaret Leinen about building diversity in our community. There was also the New York Times opinion piece about “bro talk” on Wall Street and how it keeps women out of the conversation and insidiously pushes them out of that workforce. And, on the even darker side, who can forget that guy in the news stating that if his daughter was harassed at work, then she should just find another job or even switch careers. Okay, back to the light side: here is an awesome and inspiring collection of profiles of women in planetary science.

Just recently, another of AGU’s blogs, Dan’s Wild Wild Science Journal, had a post about the lack of women in the STEM workforce. It recapped a PLOS One article that argues for increased tutoring through Calc I and II in early college, especially for those that didn’t have calc in high school. As a former introductory chemistry tutor at my undergrad institution, I think this is a fantastic idea. College can be hard, especially adjusting during that first term or two, and a broad support system, including tutoring for those tough introductory classes, is critical for maximizing student success. Here’s one of the important charts from the article:


The article focuses on increasing the second-to-last data point on this graph. They show evidence that tutoring in Calc I/II could significantly alter the drop in STEM students during those first few years of college. I completely agree.

What they didn’t really discuss is the far bigger drop off between the senior year of high school and freshmen wanting to major in STEM. That’s where the “number of people in the STEM pipeline” drops off the most. In addition, back in middle school and high school, the lines between male and female diverge the most, with the male interest curve rising and the female curve dropping.

As a final topic here, I’d like to recommend a book. Among the many comments I received was a link to a book, “Now What Do I Say?” by Anne Krook. It’s a how-to book, filled with hypothetical (or, sadly, very real) examples of sexist comments and questions women might encounter, and good advice on how to respond in these situations. She compares this process to disaster planning, “the options for addressing risks as you plan for a disaster are to prevent, mitigate, prepare, and accept risks.” Krook offers lots of advice on how to address the risk of inappropriate interactions at work via all 4 of these avenues. My e-book copy is highlighted on nearly every page. There is too much good advice in this book to be condensed into a paragraph on a blog, so I won’t try. I will say this: the 10 workplace commandments section alone is worth the book price. I sat up the night before the GEM/CEDAR Workshop finishing this book, and then was at the meeting for so short of a time that I barely got to talk about it with people. Whether you are male or female, I strongly urge you to read this book.


Getting back to editing JGR Space Physics, I strongly urge you to remove gendered wording in reviews and, especially, responses to reviews. It is now acceptable to use the singular they in formal writing, which is a good alternative to guessing the gender of an anonymous person. I still see “he” and “him” in correspondence and, really, unless your reviewer signs it, you will probably guess incorrectly about who your writing about.


8 thoughts on “More On Bro Culture

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