Tuesday, October 7, 2008

ICWIP: Day 1 - plenary talks

The format of the conference consists of several plenary talks, as well as several parallel workshops. One of the workshops is simply personal professional development, intended to benefit workshop participants. The other four workshop are really working groups that will meet and make conclusions and recommendations about assigned topics: attracting girls to physics, site visits and improving the climate for women, successful proposals and project leadership, and organizing WIP working groups. The US delegation met before the beginning of today's sessions to figure out which sessions to attend: I'll be going to site visits.

The first thing on the program is "Opening Ceremonies," but our delegation did not actually get up and march or dance or anything. Rather, it might have been better named "Introductory Remarks," because several VIPs got up and make short speeches to welcome and open the meeting. Rather than list all the speakers, I want to comment particularly on just a few:
  • The chair of the LOC, Prof. Youngah Park, used to be a professor of physics, but successfully ran for office
    as a member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. So she can now influence public policy with regard to women in science, rather than simply agitating as an academic. How inspiring!
  • Doyoon Byun, Ministry of the Ministry of Gender Equality in South Korea, mentioned that 5% of Korean GNP will go to R&D: I wonder how that compares to the US?
  • Elisabeth Giacobina, Director of Research of CNRS in France, emphasized the need for childcare, choosing between career and family.

The four plenary talks from the morning were scientific talks by women physics from different countries on different topics. The talks were all very good and extremely interesting, but rather than discuss their science here, I'll focus on their personal stories:
  • Prof. Young Kee Kim from Fermilab & U of Chicago: fifth of five girls in her family, with one brother. She credited her parents and teachers for encouraging her studies and treating boys and girls equally.
  • Michèle Leduc from Ecole Normale Supérieure, CNRS: went to Ecole Normale Supérieure back when it was divided into girls and boys schools, and argued that more girls went into science before it became integrated. Credited her feminist mother for saying that girls should have their own careers.
  • Minka Ritsch-Marte from Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria
  • Maki Kawai from Univ. of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Japan: her mother was a physicist, so didn't see anything unusual about pursuing science. Married and had 1st child as grad student, 2nd child as postdoc, and lived apart from her husband for several years. Noted that being a human being and scientist were not necessarily compatible.

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