If Einstein was a woman …

Written by on April 2, 2013 in Cars and Chicks, Perspectives, Trends - 16 Comments

Just a day after April Fool’s, a spoof obit of Albert Einstein surfaced in the blogosphere. “Family man who invented relativity and made great chili dies,” snickered the headline at The Last Word on Nothing. When he wasn’t splitting atoms, Albert was a family man who took the garbage out and hand-washed the living room’s antimacassars.

The prank parodied a real obit by the New York Times about Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep satellites in place. The first version of the obit began “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off work to raise three sons.” And so on.Yvonne Brill

That was March 30, at 2:21 p.m. Seven hours later, the Times changed the article significantly, no doubt in response to being raked over for its faux pas. Now, the article began by noting that Brill was a pioneering rocket scientist, over her mean beef stroganoff. Strangely, no editorial comment admitted to the revision. We can only hope the Times is not toying with other news in the same way.

Scientists, male and female, declared the obit a mega- failure of the Finkbeiner test, devised by science writer Christie Aschwanden.

Passing the Finkbeiner test – named after another science writer, Ann Finkbeiner, is easy. When writing about a Ann Finkbeinerfemale scientist, focus on her achievements, not her gender. Here’s the simple metric – just don’t ever mention:

  • The fact that she’s a woman
  • Her husband’s job
  • Her child care arrangements
  • How she nurtures her underlings
  • How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
  • How she’s such a role model for other women
  • How she’s the “first woman to…”

Easy enough. That’s why we were heartened to receive an infographic from Ford, celebrating over 100 years of women’s leadership. It began in 1907, when Georgia Boyer joined the Ford Service Department at the Detroit Piquette Plant. The latest entry is for 2011, when Barb Samardzich was named vice president, product development, Ford Europe.

But the infographic was more notable for who it didn’t mention. Conspicuous by her absence was Dianne Craig, currently the president of Ford Canada. Curiously, Bobbie Gaunt, who was named president and CEO of Ford Canada in 1997, is very present and accounted for.Dianne Craig

It seems that being a female president of Ford Canada just isn’t that big a deal any more. It’s been done. Why make a fuss? That milestone has been reached. There’s no reason to celebrate – or is there?

When a woman achieving a leadership position is no longer considered newsworthy, that’s a headline in itself. In a good way.

As Barbra Streisand noted at the 1993 Academy Awards, which honoured women and the movies, “I look forward to the day when tributes like this will no longer be necessary. It won’t be necessary because women will have the same opportunities as men in all fields, and will be honoured without regard for their gender, but simply for the excellence of their work.”





16 Comments on "If Einstein was a woman …"

  1. Trinidad Pena April 4, 2013 at 3:35 pm · Reply

    Great piece! This happens to women in every field. We have come a long way BUT still have a long way to go towards equality.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 8, 2013 at 11:04 pm · Reply

      The path may be slow and winding, but the destination is worth it.

  2. Doreen Pendgracs April 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm · Reply

    Interesting observations.

    It reminds me of a discussion I had with a colleague the other day. She was speaking about a conversation she’d had with a black woman in the US who was in the military. They have even one more hurdle to jump. It’s difficult enough for women in the armed forces (or even in the RCMP here in Canada,) but make that woman one from a visible minority, and yikes! 2 barriers to cross before anyone even considers her abilities.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 8, 2013 at 11:02 pm · Reply

      I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s a double whammy – in sectors that are very rigidly male dominated like the military or the quasi-military, the challenge is multiplied by other factors such as race and sexual orientation. Have noticed visible minority females in the local police force, but the RCMP? I wonder if that holds true for our provincial police too. Now you’ve got me thinking, Doreen! I just may have to go have some chocolate : )

  3. Hola BackGrinder April 5, 2013 at 1:53 pm · Reply

    Some good points here. I hate hearing someone was the “first” member of a group to do something. Sometimes I think I should register as a left handed Mormon Eskimo just so I can register all of my daily accomplishments as “firsts”. If you really want to honor someone honor who they are and what they have done, their “grouping” should be secondary, if it’s mentioned at all.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm · Reply

      That’s funny! Do you suppose there are any left handed Mormon Eskimos?! Yes, we need to focus on work and achievement, and spend less time qualifying it or applying yesterday’s criteria.

  4. Jeri April 5, 2013 at 6:16 pm · Reply

    It’s disheartening to me that no mention was made of the editorial change.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 8, 2013 at 10:55 pm · Reply

      I was really quite shocked! Like I said, I hope the Times doesn’t mess with other news in the same way. What were they thinking? Or were they?

  5. Kelly Wade April 5, 2013 at 7:06 pm · Reply

    Really enjoyed this! I think its crazy that even after how far we’ve come in the fight for equal rights for women, there’s still so much farther to go when it comes the divide between what each gender is known for and compensated in the workplace.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm · Reply

      You hit a real nerve there, Kelly! Women don’t get paid nearly as well as men, for doing the same work. Hopefully, we’ll see some balancing out here. It’s not that unusual for women to be the breadwinners in homes, and I think that will drive that particular issue.

  6. Susan Cooper April 5, 2013 at 11:49 pm · Reply

    What a great article!!!! It is so sad how much women have had to struggle to reach where they are today. 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 8, 2013 at 10:52 pm · Reply

      Yes, it’s kinda sad but we’re making real headway. And that’s cause for celebration! I believe in focusing on the positive, and looking forward …

  7. Becc April 8, 2013 at 6:36 am · Reply

    I look around and there are so many women in such high places. I too look forward to the day where it is no longer newsworthy but just a matter of course, like it should be.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm · Reply

      While it’s taken a while, there certainly are more women in positions of authority now than ever before. Having said that, we still have a ways to go. Even as we’re mourning Margaret Thatcher (well, most of us are), there are more comments about her being a statesman and one of the longest-serving prime ministers … and hardly a crack about her steak and kidney pie.

  8. Arleen April 25, 2013 at 2:05 pm · Reply

    Very interesting post. I sell promotional products and when I started it was a man’s business, I was told that being a woman I would never make it. I also started my internet company in the early 90’s and was told that it was dumb idea. I was invited to a dinner with top owners in my business where I was told this lovely information. What I find ironical is today the same people that said being a woman was a problem are doing the same thing on the internet. Women do not get the recognition they deserve. They have done studies where a woman is smarter than men. We are no longer living in the cave man era where the man hunts for food and the wife stays home and cooks. We have brains and need to be recognized as such.


    • Krystyna Lagowski April 29, 2013 at 1:45 am · Reply

      Hey Arleen, I know where you’re coming from. It’s less and less of a “problem” to be a woman in business, especially in this information age where women naturally network and reach out. More women are in charge not only in the business sector, but in politics. Women are increasingly becoming the head of household, not only in single parent families but in nuclear family situations. Roles are changing, and I’m hoping it’s for the better!

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