1.2 Historical Perspectives on Structural Discrimination in Atmospheric Science

Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 11:15 AM
4C-4 (Washington State Convention Center)
Roger D. Turner, Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

While the absence of women within science became a subject of national concern during the 1970s, it had been the too-prominent presence of women in meteorology that concerned many male meteorologists during the three decades before. During World War II (1939-1945) about 200 women received graduate-level training in meteorology, working as Weather Bureau forecasters, academic and military researchers, and aviation meteorologists. By 1955, perhaps half of all television weathercasters were women (though few if any of these women had academic meteorological training). While graduate-trained women challenged assumptions about the ability of women to do rational scientific work, TV “weather girls” reinforced long-standing cultural associations between weather, femininity, and unpredictability. To the overwhelmingly male dynamic meteorologists attempting to develop objective methods of numerical weather prediction in the 1950s (with relatively poor success and at great public expense), female weathercasters thus threatened the social standing of meteorology as a whole. This paper explores how male scientists used the rhetoric of “professionalizing meteorology” to justify educational and certification structures that systematically excluded women from positions of responsibility and public visibility. In addition, it explores how women like Mildred Oliver, Joanne Simpson, Maud Greenwood, and Florence Van Stratten worked to pursue careers in meteorology between World War II and the introduction of Affirmative Action in 1972.
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