Carl Sagan on why his science organization should stop excluding women (1981)

If membership is restricted to men, the loss will be ours:

Early-1981, following IBM’s withdrawal of support due to the organisation’s continued exclusion of women within its ranks, renowned astronomer Carl Sagan sent the following impassioned letter to each and every fellow member of The Explorers Club — an international society dedicated to scientific exploration since its inception in 1904 — and argued beautifully for a change of policy.

Later that year, The Explorers Club welcomed its first female members.

Carl Sagan’s letter:

Dear Fellow Member of The Explorers Club:
Thank you for the opportunity to write to you about the admission of women to The Explorers Club. The human zest for exploration and discovery is the hallmark of our species and one of the secrets of our success. It is a tradition that goes back much further than the 76 proud years in which The Explorers Club has been in existence. When our organization was formed in 1905, men were preventing women from voting and from pursuing many occupations for which they are clearly suited. In the popular mind, exploration was not what women did. Even so, women had played a significant but unheralded role in the history of exploration — in Africa in the Nineteenth Century, for example. Similarly, Lewis and Clark were covered with glory, but Sacajewea, who guided them every inch of the way, was strangely forgotten. All institutions reflect the prejudices and conventions of their times, and when it was founded The Explorers Club necessarily reflected the attitudes of 1905.
Traditions are important. They provide continuity with our past. But it is up to us to decide which traditions are essential to The Explorers Club and which are accidents of the epoch in which it was institutionalized. Times have changed since 1905. It is very clear that a foolish rigidity can destroy otherwise worthwhile institutions; they are then replaced by other organizations more in tune with the times. IBM’s recent withdrawal of corporate support for The Explorers Club because of our “exclusionary policy toward women” should be pondered carefully by every member. Many other former supporters may follow suit.
Today women are making extraordinary contributions in areas of fundamental interest to our organization. There are several women astronauts. The earliest footprints — 3.6 million years old — made by a member of the human family have been found in a volcanic ash flow in Tanzania by Mary Leakey. Trailblazing studies of the behavior of primates in the wild have been performed by dozens of young women, each spending years with a different primate species. Jane Goodall’s studies of the chimpanzee are the best known of the investigations which illuminate human origins. The undersea depth record is held by Sylvia Earle. The solar wind was first measured in situ by Marcia Neugebauer, using the Mariner 2 spacecraft. The first active volcanos beyond the Earth were discovered on the Jovian moon Io by Linda Morabito, using the Voyager 1 spacecraft. These examples of modern exploration and discovery could be multiplied a hundredfold. They are of true historical significance. If membership in The Explorers Club is restricted to men, the loss will be ours; we will only be depriving ourselves.
The supposed parallelism between our situation and those of other organizations seems to me strained. The Bohemian Club is a resort; The Explorers Club is not. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are for children. Their membership derives almost exclusively from adolescent and pre-adolescent youngsters, who have not yet fully accomodated to the opposite sex. But we presumably are adults, with a special responsibility for interacting with all humans on this planet.
I do not believe that the primary function of our organization is to promote male bonding or to serve as a social club — although there is certain room for both. I believe that the fundamental dedication of the club is that stated on the masthead of every issue of The Explorers Club Newsletter: “To the conquest of the unknown and the advancement of knowledge.” If this is our purpose, then admission should be open to all qualified members of the human species.
Cordially,

(Signed)

Carl Sagan

White Canadians earn more, because they have white privilege.

White Canadians earn more than non-white Canadians, even when comparing only the whites and non-whites with the same education and of the same age. Comparing only the foreign-born white Canadians with the foreign-born non-white Canadians, white people earn more. Comparing only the second-generation, Canadian-born white Canadians with the second-generation, Canadian-born non-white Canadians, white people still earn more.

In other words, even when controlling for age, education, and generation, white Canadians earn more than non-white Canadians. Racial appearance causes the difference in earnings.

Wellesley Institute’s study, Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market, was released in March 2011 and draws on data from the last mandatory long-form Census (which has been cancelled recently by the politically-conservative Harper government):

THE LAST AVAILABLE CENSUS DATA before the federal government cancelled the country’s mandatory long form Census reveals a troubling trend in Canada.

Despite years of unprecedented economic growth and an increasingly diverse population, this report confirms what so many Canadians have experienced in real life: a colour code is still at work in Canada’s labour market.

Racialized Canadians encounter a persistent colour code that blocks them from the best paying jobs our country has to offer.

[…]

Default explanations like “it takes a while for immigrants to integrate” don’t bear out. Even when you control for age and education, the data show first generation racialized Canadian men earn only 68.7% of what non-racialized first-generation Canadian men earn, indicating a colour code is firmly at play in the labour market. Here, the gender gap — at play throughout the spectrum — becomes disturbingly large: Racialized women immigrants earn only 48.7 cents for every dollar non-racialized male immigrants earn.

The colour code persists for second generation Canadians with similar education and age. The gap narrows, with racialized women making 56.5 cents per dollar non-racialized men earn; while racialized men earn 75.6 cents for every dollar non-racialized men in this cohort earn.

Further Reading:


Related posts:

Discrimination against job applicants with non-white names continues.

Muslim ‘refused job because of his name’ accuses airline bosses of racism:

A Muslim airport worker has accused airline Cathay Pacific of racism after he was refused a job interview – only to be offered one when he applied two days later using a fake white British-sounding name.

Algerian-born Salim Zakhrouf applied to Cathay Pacific for a job as a passenger services officer at Heathrow Airport.

Mr Zakhrouf, 38, who has lived in Britain since 1991 and is a UK citizen, was told by email he had not been selected for interview.

But applying 48 hours later as ‘Ian Woodhouse’ with an identical CV and home address, he was invited for an interview by the same personnel officer who had first refused him.

via Resist racism, who points out, “For clarity:  My name is not the problem, as others have suggested.  Racism is the problem.”.


Related links:

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The Myth of “Special Rights”

dentedbluemercedes writes:

Recent years have seen a regression with regards to the concept of human rights. Most often, this push-back is in response to legislation that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and / or trans people, and is often accompanied by claims of infringement on freedom of speech, and / or that human rights legislation grants “special rights” to protected classes.

[…]

Of course, when categories are included in rights legislation, they are meant to work both ways. For example, sexual orientation ideally protects one from discrimination because they’re straight as much as it protects them because they’re gay. The intent is simply that orientation should not be the basis of decisions on hiring and firing, availability of residences and resources, or whether or not to do violence on someone. If it seems to protect a specific subset of that, that’s because that kind of discrimination in its extreme form is almost exclusively levelled at that subset. And if such a disparity exists, then it illustrates exactly why the legislation is necessary in the first place.

Link: The Myth of “Special Rights”

White people dislike Asian people attending Canadian universities.

Maclean’s thinks that top Canadian universities are “too Asian”. I didn’t even know how to begin to address the many ways the article fails, but wildunicornherd sums it up pretty well:

The best universities are “too Asian”? How about you’re too racist.

I just love this bit:

To quell the influx of Jewish students, Ivy League schools abandoned their meritocratic admissions processes in favour of one that focused on the details of an applicant’s private life—questions about race, religion, even about the maiden name of an applicant’s mother. Schools also began looking at such intangibles as character, personality and leadership potential. Canadian universities, apart from highly competitive professional programs and faculties, don’t quiz applicants the same way, and rely entirely on transcripts. Likely that is a good thing. And yet, that meritocratic process results, especially in Canada’s elite university programs, in a concentration of Asian students.

Emphasis mine. Like, “we” realized that racism is wrong so we abandoned the policies that kept out the Jews…which meant we were forced to let in the Asians! God damn you, political correctness! Because we have nothing to fear from a lot of Jews (who are all white Europeans, of course), but a majority of Asians (who may not even be born in Canada! who may *clutches pearls* speak Mandarin!) is a problem that needs to be fixed.

I also love how Asian students associating mainly with other Asian students is a HUGE PROBLEM HOW CAN WE STOP THIS but White students who go to Western because there’s too many icky Chinese at U of T is understandable, y’know?

And by “love” I mean SMASH WITH RAGE.

More coherent commentary from Angry Asian Man.

The article also continually creates a false dichotomy between East Asian students and Canadian-born students (i.e., the Perpetual Foreigner stereotype), as if all East Asians are immigrants, and all Canadian-born Canadians are white:

Sweet’s latest study, “Post-high school pathways of immigrant youth,” released last month, found that more than 70 per cent of students in the Toronto District School Board who immigrated from East Asia went on to university, compared to 52 per cent of Europeans, the next highest group, and 12 per cent of Caribbean, the lowest. This is in contrast to English-speaking Toronto students born in Canada—of which just 42 per cent confirmed admission to university.

Hey, I’m an English-speaking Toronto student born in Canada! Shouldn’t I be applauded for being of the 42 per cent minority of my group—English-speaking Toronto students born in Canada—who attended university? Oh snap, I’m Asian instead of white, so I’m the wrong kind, the kind they don’t want attending university.

Seriously, if you think that my race makes me not fully Canadian, or if you think my race means that I must have the same personality as others who happen to share my race, or if you think that white Canadians are more deserving of Canadian privileges than other Canadians, then you are racist.

Update 2010/11/12: Maysie addresses more reasons why the Maclean’s article fails.

Women did not evolve against risk-taking and tech startups.

This is cross-posted at Geek Feminism.

There is a common idea that women are underrepresented in tech startups because we are “nurturing and not risk-taking enough by nature”, an idea often proposed and upvoted in Hacker News discussions. Roy F. Baumeister, Professor of Psychology, also argues something similar in his defense of Lawrence Summers’ hypothesis that fewer women than men have high innate ability in science. Professor Baumeister argues that men evolved to take risks, and women evolved to play it safe, because we are allegedly descendants of risk-taking men and risk-averse women.

However, there are a few problems with this explanation of why women are underrepresented among tech entrepreneurs. One problem is that top venture capitalist John Doerr consciously and deliberately invests in tech startups run by white men over women and racial minorities, and even encourages other VCs to follow his lead. Even more, it is understood that this is “the way the venture-capital industry operates”. While other industries call this “stereotyping” or “profiling”, VCs call it “pattern recognition”. In other words, there is systemic discrimination in the tech industry based on gender, as well as race and age.

Another problem with the hypothesis of female risk-aversion is that outside of the tech industry, women have been launching new businesses at twice the rate of men for three decades:

The phenomenal growth of women-owned businesses has made headlines for three decades—women consistently have been launching new enterprises at twice the rate of men, and their growth rates of employment and revenue have outpaced the economy.

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The Hidden Job Market – Whiteness Has Its Privileges

© Copyright 2010 by Joseph Worrell. Reproduced with permission on Restructure!.

In February 2006, The Canadian Labour Congress presented a disturbing study on Canadian workers. The report maintained that Canadian-born visible minorities faced the highest barriers to steady, well-paying jobs of any group in the country.

Post 911 Arab-West Asians came in first with a 14% unemployment rate, Blacks at 11.5% and Latin Americans at 10.5%. Aboriginal Canadians also failed to reap many job rewards but statistics curiously grouped them with unemployed Euro-Canadians.

The Labour Congress’ study caused a bit of quandary, except among those who are already “in the know” about the dilemma.

Leslie Cheung, of Simon Fraser University, declared the report could not disavow “workplace inequality with education disparities because non-White Canadians are better educated as a whole than native-born Whites and immigrants”. The Labour Congress predicts the situation to worsen as huge numbers of non-White young people enter the job market.

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