Physics is a male-dominated field, and the assumption is that a woman has to overcome hurdles and face down biases that men don’t.This is absolutely accurate in most cases. Pretty much all competent women in high-energy physics whom I met acknowledge that this "myth about extra hurdles" for women is just nonsense. You won't hear about these women because their politics is inconvenient for the PC Nazis who have hijacked most of the media. However, the women with this opinion on the situation produce well over 90% of the actual scientific output that women contribute to science, an enterprise of all the humans.
But that just isn’t so. Women in physics are familiar with this misconception and acknowledge it mostly with jokes.
(Some feminist activists who are good enough physicists, e.g. Melissa Franklin at Harvard, would love to deny the fact that there is no bias against women left and the bias that remains real has the opposite sign. However, their room to spread this fairy-tale about their "oppression" usually shrinks substantially once they're elected the department chair, for no really good reason.)
I could tell you dozens and dozens of examples of highly productive women – really the bulk of women in the proper science – who agree with me but I can't even afford to do this thing because they would face trouble with the PC Nazis just for the fact that their name has appeared on my blog in this context. So even though they're the majority among the productive female scientists, you won't hear about them or their opinions. They know something that certain people just don't want to be heard. Instead, you will always be offered stories by obnoxious, constantly whining, largely unproductive "also scientists" who want the membership in a would-be oppressed group (including women) to become a universal excuse for incompetence so they will always be dissatisfied with something.
The author of "Hurdles for Women in Physics" and Tommaso Dorigo disagree with Kluger (and with your humble correspondent) and they try various incomprehensible sleights of hand to justify their claims. However, ironically enough, the fact that women are much more likely to have advantages rather than disadvantages is well documented by pretty much all the female names that appear in these texts. What do I mean?
Well, I also mean the author of the "Hurdles..." herself. But if I followed this example and listed some details, this article could be excessively controversial.
So let's pick Fabiola Gianotti. An article about her – a discoverer of the Higgs boson – started this whole story. Is she an example of the discrimination against women?
I think she is a very good physicist, articles about her on this blog are universally positive (including comments about her wise choice of fonts, Comic Sans), but we should still notice that ATLAS is not the only major detector at the LHC.
There is also CMS – a detector surrounded by a collaboration that Tommaso Dorigo belongs to – and the CMS has discovered the Higgs boson, too. It was done in the same channels, at the same time, pretty much at the same confidence level (up to differences that were clearly due to chance). The spokesman for CMS is male and American, Joe Incandela of Santa Barbara.
In many situations in real life, one may compare "analogous situations" to see that women are surely not discriminated against, quite on the contrary. But non-experts may fail to understand which situations are really analogous to each other and which situations are not. Outsiders just can't determine whether two physicists are equally good or not.
However, almost by construction, we have a situation in which it may be done almost rigorously. Sociologically speaking, there is an almost perfect \(\ZZ_2\) symmetry between ATLAS and CMS – and their discoveries of the Higgs boson. Fine, who was in advantage in the wake of the discovery of the Higgs boson? Joe Incandela's description of the situation was arguably more clearly organized and more comprehensible – which is partly due to his being a native speaker.
When you look at the "Person of the Year" contest itself, you will find Ms Fabiola Gianotti but you will not find Mr Joe Incandela. The symmetry has been broken and it has been broken in the opposite direction than one you would hear from the dishonest promoters of the PC propaganda, right?
Just to be sure that we're not talking just about some perception of editors of non-scientific magazines, there's a difference in the funding, too. A recent Milner bonus prize gave some money to the experimenters in particle physics, too. How did the current spokespeople do?
Well, Ms Gianotti received $500,000 while Mr Incandela only received $250,000. Which number is larger? What is the ratio? Is it substantial? Is it meritocratically justifiable? Of course, by looking at the structure of the winners, one may find an "excuse" why Incandela got less money than Gianotti: three more spokespeople shared a million with him while Gianotti has only shared a million with one additional person.
But this would be a truly lame excuse because the current spokespersons have nothing to do with the number and composition of the past spokespersons. There is a symmetry between their work. A more natural distribution would give 1/6 of those $2 million to the six people. But it didn't happen. Why? Easy. I think that Yuri Milner is a meritocrat but he – or his advisers – just had to give a factor-of-two advantage to a visible enough woman in order to improve their image in the broader scientific/leftist community where the dishonest PC Nazis have accumulated a huge power.
I could give you tons of similar examples but the symmetry or asymmetry between the men and women in the story would be far less obvious to the outsiders so they wouldn't be as convincing and indisputable as this particular example.
Now, the "Hurdles..." essay argues that some people working in the Academia (not necessarily scientists) heard her last name and talked as if they thought she was male. Well, it was their guess because it's far more likely that a random theoretical physicist is male and ordinary people simply use sentences with "he" or "she" and they have to decide.
In the U.S., I have met almost no one among these people who would pronounce my name correctly at all and I have never complained. In fact, I would have wanted too much if I expected the Americans to correctly guess whether Luboš is a male or female name. ;-)
Some women would do better in the Czech Republic because almost all surnames are nontrivially feminized. Her name would be Melania (or Melánie, if truly Czech) Trumpová. This is not a joke: this is how a book or article about her would really write down her name as long as it would respect the rules of grammar. The ending -ová produces a feminine adjective related to the original male name, Trump. When her name would be pronounced by Czechs in the proper form, Ms/pí Trumpová, everyone would know it's "she". But I am afraid that in Czechia, she would also complain – namely about her name's having a different, derived form! ;-)
(Incidentally, -ová is one of the numerous possible feminine suffixes. We use the flexibility of the language and the diversity at many places, for example in chemistry where they distinguish the oxidation number. So -ová also appears in "kyselina sírová" which is "sulfuric acid" and denotes the oxidation number six; "síra" is "sulfur". Kids learn the suffixes for oxidation numbers between one and eight as -ný, -natý, -itý, -ičitý, -ičný/-ečný, -ový, -istý, -ičelý. The masculine letter "-ý" may be replaced by the feminine "-á". It's kind of clever and poetic.)
But at any rate, janitors' guess that Trump is a man isn't a discrimination. On the other hand, keeping someone whose latest 10 papers are absolutely and entirely wrong, nonsensical, and absurd in the system for many and many years is an example of reverse discrimination.
Incidentally, their comments about the need to take care of children are inappropriate, too. A woman may play the more important and less avoidable role in the care about children and it's important and the society may appreciate it. But if that's the key activity that a woman is doing well, she should be getting some special money for her being a mother – and not for her being a physicist. In the same way, a day care center is something else than a physics department. Be sure that some people confuse these two things deliberately because a physicist's salary is still significantly larger than some social aid that mothers may be receiving. But one simply shouldn't confuse these two activities.
Please, feminist demagogues, be ashamed, be very ashamed. You must know very well that the claims about the discrimination against women are just malicious lies but you use them nevertheless to elevate your status and the status of your political ideas/delusions/lies.