Sunday, December 9, 2012

Women's attire at the AGU Fall Meeting

by Kim Cobb

Every year before the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, there is a flurry of conversation in my mostly female lab about what to wear. I understand that this was also discussed on the Earth Science Women’s Network listserv. For someone who has never been, it is impossible to know what to expect. This is science after all, and geology at that, so much of the online guidance about corporate conference attire is off-base. As women in earth science, it is especially difficult to balance several competing aims when packing for AGU. First and foremost, AGU presents a unique opportunity for professional development– one that is particularly important for younger scientists. Getting a job after graduation requires making a name for yourself outside of your lab. Presenting a polished, put-together appearance reflects a seriousness of purpose, self-confidence, and shows respect for the collective scientific efforts on display at AGU. Add to this the intuitive understanding that attractive people are at a distinct advantage in our society (see supporting research here and especially here), and these drivers would in isolation push women towards the coordinated, tailored suits that are so common in corporate settings. It is important to remember that science is an arena where individual intellectual accomplishment is highly valued, so there is more latitude for personal style than in corporate America.
However, several important factors push AGU women’s attire in the other direction, closer to the average AGU men’s outfit of jeans paired with a pullover sweater. Most obviously, attractive young female students are likely wary of distinguishing themselves from the sea of male colleagues by calling attention to their femininity. And then there’s the whole “geology” subculture:  rock hammer-toting, North Face-wearing, “I’m-so-busy-solving-earth’s-mysteries-that-I-hardly-have-time-to-shave”. In this world, a Mac laptop is a fashion statement. Finally, some recent research (summarized here) has uncovered a distinct bias against the hiring of attractive women in male-dominated fields. If young women are subconsciously aware of such a bias, it will also push them towards a more androgenous look.  

What follows is my attempt to provide some guidance for young women beginning their careers in geoscience, especially as they consider conference attire. It was also really fun to collect these images from well-dressed women scientists, as a fashion aficionado myself. I didn’t know most of them, so you can imagine the reaction I got when I asked to take their picture for an AGU fashion blog! They turned three shades of red and giggled nervously. Some preferred to remain anonymous, while some, like my esteemed colleague Adina Paytan, reveled in the spotlight. I owe a big thank-you to these ladies, who were great sports.
Below I present several looks and discuss why I believe they make successful AGU outfits. [Update:  Many readers have bemoaned the lack of pants featured here. I love wearing pants to AGU myself, and I in no way meant to suggest that one must wear a skirt and/or boots to AGU to look "acceptable" or fashionable.]
Lynn Soreghan, Prof. Univ. of Oklahoma. I love the
effortless-ness of the outfit, impeccably accessorized,
with matching coat and boots. It's "earthy" but modern,
 and the vest adds a touch of academic elegance.
Jen (awake) and Annie (asleep) Pierce, Boise State
University. What can I say, there is nothing that says "I'm a fearless female scientist" like a baby in a sling paired with some incredible red boots! Great wool skirt too.

Yours truly, sporting my new, ridiculous(ly cute)
Italian shoes. Matching bag is a coincidence. I do like
to wear skirts at AGU, most often with a plain,
unmemorable, but well-conceived (and warm!) top.
Here, it's all about the accessories.
Anonymous. I think this outfit hits all the right notes. She
looks nerdy and interesting, but attractive, in a Euro-styled aesthetic that is made particularly memorable by, once more, great red boots. I like her hair worn down here, which softens the look. 

Anonymous. I saw meters and meters of scarves at AGU,
whose gifts are on display here. The long skirt is flattering
yet nondescript, while the scarf and coordinated sweater
add interest and draw the eye to her face - a good thing.
Betsy Madden, an all-but-PhD'd grad student at Stanford. I love the ease that this outfit conveys, and the pairing of neutrals with the colorful textured skirt. She certainly seems ready to be at the front of a class.

Sylvia Dee, grad student USC. She is making
a bold statement with the all-black look, which
is very effective against her striking red hair and
blue eyes. The metal-studded flats are a good
choice, adding some playfulness to the ensemble. 
Adina Paytan, UCSC. Sporting a killer blue dress at the
AGU Honor's Banquet. She wears her sunglasses at night.
A brilliant scientist, close friend and colleague, and one
of my role models.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cobb lab folk at AGU

by Kim Cobb

I am thrilled to be at the Fall Meeting of AGU this year, thanks to my husband who is holding down the fort back in Atlanta. Joining me in San Francisco are graduate students Jessica Moerman and Stacy Carolin, and undergraduate researchers Eleanor Middlemas and Elizabeth Wiggins, who are all presenting TODAY (details below). I have to give a special plug for my students of course, especially the undergrads, who are presenting their first poster of many at AGU. If anybody wants some super-qualified, wildly enthusiastic, and exceptionally personable graduate students, you would be well-served in dropping by their posters to woo them today, or contact them by e-mail. They are free agents, and will be applying to grad school next month.

Eleanor will present her poster this morning in the Hadley circulation session:

PP31C-2049. The effect of lowered sea level on climate in the Indo-Pacific region as simulated by the SPEEDY AGCM
Eleanor Middlemas; Kim M. Cobb; Emanuele Di Lorenzo

and then this afternoon, Jessica and Liz will present their posters in the High Res paleo session:

PP33A-2094. Local and regional climatic controls on high-resolution rainfall and cave dripwater oxygen isotopes in northern Borneo
Jessica W. Moerman; Kim M. Cobb; Jess F. Adkins; Harald Sodemann; Brian Clark; Andrew A. Tuen

PP33A-2089. The Effects of Freshwater Dissolution on Coral Geochemistry and Morphology
Elizabeth B. Wiggins; Kim M. Cobb; Hussein R. Sayani

My own presentation on our greatly expanded fossil coral dataset (now back to 7,000 years ago) isn't until Friday morning, in the El Nino-Southern Oscillation diversity session (yes, we even want to promote diversity in ENSO these days):

OS52B-03. Testing late 20th century El Nino-Southern Oscillation variability against new coral-based estimates of natural variability
Kim M. Cobb; Niko Westphal; Hussein R. Sayani; Emanuele Di Lorenzo; Hai Cheng; R. Lawrence Edwards; Christopher D. Charles

I am especially happy to see Cobb lab alumni Jud Partin and Julien Emile-Geay here (Jud is presenting a poster this morning and Julien's talk is right before mine on Friday morning). They are both kicking some serious science &^%# and, not coincidentally, are happy and well.