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Author Topic: Women in STEM  (Read 28228 times)
scampster
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« Reply #45 on: March 07, 2012, 5:23:26 AM »

I just realized that I am a tenured scientist at an R1. I just never thought of myself that way, but that is what I am. It did not take 80 hour work weeks. It did take discipline and sustained effort. And I have loved getting to where I am now, and I love being here. I will say that my department is unusually humane, while also being unusually productive, and we do have a reputation with other schools as an especially harmonious place to work. I am very, very lucky.

I think the point you make about not working 80 hour weeks to get where you are is important. I think US academics like to sound like martyrs. Yes, if you want to be the famous superstar, you probably have to do that. But that's what? 1% of all scientists?

But the point that keeps getting driven home by the tenured-at-R1-STEM-women I know in my field who work on mentoring younger scientists is that it doesn't have to be this way if your goal is to be a tenured-at-R1-scientist. They work hard and efficiently when they are at work, get their s*** done, and don't check their work e-mail after 6pm so that they can spend time with their families.

I'm at the career stage where my peers are making these decisions about dropping out of academics (or at least veering away from R1s, despite liking research) and it is largely because this idea has been built up that if you don't work 80 hours a week, you will never succeed. The women I consider mentors who are trying to fight this myth by example are tenured at high-ranking R1s.

Or maybe my field is just easy to get tenured in or something.
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daniel_von_flanagan
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« Reply #46 on: March 07, 2012, 7:33:25 AM »

This frustrates me.  DvF jumps to a conclusion - "These people are unfit for these jobs, and should not have been hired in the first place" - based on data that should suggest instead a whole host of other explanations.
You have it backwards, it is the OP that is jumping to conclusions, namely that because the women in her department were denied tenure at a different rate than the men, there must be something fishy going on.  My response was to emphasize that you can't draw that conclusion unless you know that the portfolios are comparable.

Quote
  For example, this study describes why women tend to write fewer articles and earn fewer grants than men...and it isn't about aptitude, as DvF suggests; it's about the sociocultural expectations under which many women labor and to which men are generally exempt.  (Yes, the study is about European academe, but the parallels to North America are clear.)
With respect, I never said anything about aptitude.  I don't care how smart a colleague is, I care about their ability to create and disseminate their research.  The gold standard for that remains publication rate.  Whether or not gender roles or anything else are responsible for a given colleague lagging below tenurable standards, that is not my concern when I am evaluating someone for tenure.

I can't do anything about how a junior colleague's spouse treats them when they get home.  As an older member of a department I can try to help a new colleague by advising them against taking on unreasonable service or teaching responsibilities, and running interference if someone else tries to get them take on such responsibilities.  I've done both of these, though my advice was not always heeded.

My department has been working very hard to redress what had been a significant sex imbalance, and in recent searches we have been shortlisting women and making offers at a rate far beyond the norm for the field.  Both the women we've hired and the ones who've turned us down showed exactly the same promise of a fruitful research career as the men in our pool, and our expectations for tenure are exactly the same. Would you have it be any other way? - DvF
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zoelouise
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« Reply #47 on: March 07, 2012, 10:49:45 AM »

Yes, if you want to be the famous superstar, you probably have to do that. But that's what? 1% of all scientists?

But the point that keeps getting driven home by the tenured-at-R1-STEM-women I know in my field who work on mentoring younger scientists is that it doesn't have to be this way if your goal is to be a tenured-at-R1-scientist. They work hard and efficiently when they are at work, get their s*** done, and don't check their work e-mail after 6pm so that they can spend time with their families.

Yes, exactly! My dear PhD advisor is among the best-known people in our field. I got to see, up close, what it took to do that, and decided before I started my first job that it was not worth it for me. I set as my goal to be moderately well-known, and that is what I am. Yes there are some early mornings in the thick of a project and some late nights in the thick of grant-writing, but it's not even close to every day or even every week. I am so pleased to hear about your mentors!

Not so pleased to hear about the situations for squirrel and oxen. Those departments absolutely do exist, and they are not uncommon. I have a wonderful and very productive friend who will be leaving our university because the climate in her department is so awful (she was the first faculty hire in that department in 20 years who did not get her PhD at our university.) BAD old boys.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #48 on: March 07, 2012, 1:32:09 PM »

I still think there is too much of an "R1 or nothing!" mentality while discussing this subject. Perhaps thats because thats where the money, power and fame are concentrated (for academics anyway). Not that I would purposely steer women from R1's, but I would let a number of men and women know that they do not necessarily have to make such black and white choices for their careers.
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hoptoad
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« Reply #49 on: March 07, 2012, 1:36:28 PM »

I'm surprised that no one brought it up yet, but read the report "Why So Few" by the American Association of University Women that discusses barriers to women in STEM fields (with data to back up their research).  It can be found here: http://www.aauw.org/learn/research/whysofew.cfm.  This will partially explain the leaky pipeline.  I had a lengthy talk with the report's author and she said some of the same things that many of you suspect: women are earning PhDs at higher rates, but many make the conscience choice to leave academia.  That is their prerogative, of course, but the STEM field (employers and granting agencies) needs to ensure that we're not enacting or enforcing policies that are biased against women and prevent success in higher education.  And as ruralguy and others have said, women and men must be made aware of all their career options so they realize that they can stay in a STEM field and still have a life.
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permadoc
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« Reply #50 on: March 08, 2012, 5:35:00 AM »

Happened across this article yesterday on my phone.  It has some great references on the subject.

http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/2012/2/when-scientists-choose-motherhood/1 

Maybe one day universities will reboot the tenure process to more accurately reflect modern life. 
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polly_mer
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« Reply #51 on: March 08, 2012, 10:17:37 AM »

Yes, if you want to be the famous superstar, you probably have to do that. But that's what? 1% of all scientists?

But the point that keeps getting driven home by the tenured-at-R1-STEM-women I know in my field who work on mentoring younger scientists is that it doesn't have to be this way if your goal is to be a tenured-at-R1-scientist. They work hard and efficiently when they are at work, get their s*** done, and don't check their work e-mail after 6pm so that they can spend time with their families.

Yes, exactly! My dear PhD advisor is among the best-known people in our field. I got to see, up close, what it took to do that, and decided before I started my first job that it was not worth it for me. I set as my goal to be moderately well-known, and that is what I am. Yes there are some early mornings in the thick of a project and some late nights in the thick of grant-writing, but it's not even close to every day or even every week. I am so pleased to hear about your mentors!

What kind of R1 are we talking?  There's a huge difference between MIT and University of New Mexico, for example.  That 1% argument matters because generally when people say, "Where are the women?", they are looking at MIT, CalTech, Michigan, etc., not Louisiana Tech, Montana Tech, or Texas Tech, etc.

Consequently, I still maintain that the conclusions are often wrong because people are sampling the 1% positions instead of the next N tiers that have lots of women.  I know that when I was doing the research on "what am I going to do with this doctorate in engineering?", all of the 1% jobs described by women made me want to cry in exhaustion just from the description while the positions at small R2's and medium-selective-and-small LAC's sounded great.  Thus, when I applied, I applied for the positions that sounded good and never even put myself into the pool for the other positions.  Speaking with my peers, the only women who applied for those 1% positions were the childless, not-married ones who wanted to live everything for their careers.  Everyone else applied (and usually got) positions that were more compatible with how they want to spend their days.

I also agree about DvF about the sampling size for Kangaroo's department.  Just because the two people who were denied tenure were women doesn't mean that the department is prejudiced against women.  It might mean that the job expectations are such that anyone who is devoting substantial time and effort to something other than research won't get tenure.  However, then we have to come back to the purpose of tenure at the tippy-top R1.  Is it to give extra freedom and stability to people who are doing fantastic research at a very level or is it a prize for people who make the attempt?  I vote for the former, even if it means a disproportionate impact on certain groups since I value scientific research and I know that good people can do good research in other positions if they choose.  The choice isn't tippy-top R1 or a loss of a productive scientist completely, as Scampster and Zoelouise point out.
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kangaroo
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« Reply #52 on: March 08, 2012, 11:52:15 AM »

I also agree about DvF about the sampling size for Kangaroo's department.  Just because the two people who were denied tenure were women doesn't mean that the department is prejudiced against women.  It might mean that the job expectations are such that anyone who is devoting substantial time and effort to something other than research won't get tenure.  However, then we have to come back to the purpose of tenure at the tippy-top R1.  Is it to give extra freedom and stability to people who are doing fantastic research at a very level or is it a prize for people who make the attempt?  I vote for the former, even if it means a disproportionate impact on certain groups since I value scientific research and I know that good people can do good research in other positions if they choose.  The choice isn't tippy-top R1 or a loss of a productive scientist completely, as Scampster and Zoelouise point out.

Oh, I know. I have mentioned several times in this thread that I am aware that an n of 2 is an excruciatingly small sample size. Still, if I were a woman pursuing an R1 TT position, these anecdotes would smell very fishy to me.
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pedrita
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« Reply #53 on: March 08, 2012, 2:41:54 PM »

Oh, I know. I have mentioned several times in this thread that I am aware that an n of 2 is an excruciatingly small sample size. Still, if I were a woman pursuing an R1 TT position, these anecdotes would smell very fishy to me.

Disagree...If I were a woman seriously pursuing an R1 position, I would look into what requirements the women in question failed to meet.
I am a woman on a TT in a heavily dominated field. Two women were denied in my department in the past couple of years. Was it unfair ? Frankly, it was not. They just didn't do their homework.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #54 on: March 08, 2012, 5:28:29 PM »

Oh, I know. I have mentioned several times in this thread that I am aware that an n of 2 is an excruciatingly small sample size. Still, if I were a woman pursuing an R1 TT position, these anecdotes would smell very fishy to me.

Disagree...If I were a woman seriously pursuing an R1 position, I would look into what requirements the women in question failed to meet.
I am a woman on a TT in a heavily dominated field. Two women were denied in my department in the past couple of years. Was it unfair ? Frankly, it was not. They just didn't do their homework.

This.  

Tell the story without the woman part; two people were recently denied tenure at this institution, but others made it through.  What distinguishes the people who earned tenure from those who didn't?  Are differences evident in productivity, teaching, research, service, and other factors that are relevant to tenure or is the only difference genitalia?

As a scientist, I like to know what factors were compared and what were discarded before I agree with the conclusions.  Having a bit of statistical background helps enormously to combat the anecdata conclusions.  

For example, if every woman for the past ten years has left in disgust, some not even waiting for denial of tenure,  and went on to comparable or better positions, then I would be concerned.  If lots of women are in the candidate pool and never hired, never even interviewed, then maybe that's cause for concern.  However, two people not earning tenure in recent memory isn't the same level of "dang, maybe something is going on that needs an experiment to investigate".  Two people.  Well, maybe one kinda fizzled despite having promise and the other one had an unlucky couple of years (lots of people do) and will go do something great somewhere else with a new clock.  Just being told that they were denied tenure and happen to be women tells us nothing.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 5:29:43 PM by polly_mer » Logged

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kangaroo
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« Reply #55 on: March 08, 2012, 6:03:58 PM »

As a Ph.D. student, I am not privy to this information nor have I sought it out. I did think it was an interesting topic for discussion and appreciate all the insight and thoughtful points that have been raised here.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #56 on: March 08, 2012, 6:52:20 PM »

As a Ph.D. student, I am not privy to this information nor have I sought it out. I did think it was an interesting topic for discussion and appreciate all the insight and thoughtful points that have been raised here.

You're reading the part of statistics, right?

Sometimes, the statistics do point to something wrong with a department.  I know of a couple where I wouldn't work.  Other times, though, those small numbers and anecdotes aren't significant in a scientific sense and don't help people do things that will lead to certain socially desirable goals.  If people are too quick to find an enemy, then, lo and behold, enemies are created where none existed.
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kangaroo
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« Reply #57 on: March 08, 2012, 7:11:32 PM »

As a Ph.D. student, I am not privy to this information nor have I sought it out. I did think it was an interesting topic for discussion and appreciate all the insight and thoughtful points that have been raised here.

You're reading the part of statistics, right?

Sometimes, the statistics do point to something wrong with a department.  I know of a couple where I wouldn't work.  Other times, though, those small numbers and anecdotes aren't significant in a scientific sense and don't help people do things that will lead to certain socially desirable goals.  If people are too quick to find an enemy, then, lo and behold, enemies are created where none existed.

I meant that I'm not privy to the specific details of the faculty who were denied tenure.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #58 on: March 08, 2012, 7:29:49 PM »

Yes, I got that point.  My point was that you should not be jumping to conclusions and convicting without evidence, as you did on just this page, even after saying you knew better.

One of the biggest ways that I've seen my peers (women with STEM degrees who have the chops to go into the world-class institutions) shoot themselves in the foot is by adopting the attitude that many, if not most, departments that are predominantly male are guilty of discrimination and those particular women aren't going to stand for that, nosireebob!  I'm not saying that anyone should stand for discrimination, but adopting the attitude of "I bet they're guilty, even though I know N=2 is meaningless" is not a healthy way for you to approach finding a job yourself.  That leads to the action of confronting each search committee on what they are doing to make sure that women aren't left behind, an action that usually does not endear one to a search committee that wanted to discuss research and teaching plans.  People who start with a chip on their shoulders will not be hired when so many qualified people who won't have the ACLU on speed-dial are available.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 7:31:27 PM by polly_mer » Logged

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zoelouise
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« Reply #59 on: March 09, 2012, 12:25:19 AM »


What kind of R1 are we talking?  There's a huge difference between MIT and University of New Mexico, for example.  That 1% argument matters because generally when people say, "Where are the women?", they are looking at MIT, CalTech, Michigan, etc., not Louisiana Tech, Montana Tech, or Texas Tech, etc.


Percentage of tenured faculty that were female, 2006:
MIT 15.9%
CalTech 11.3%
Michigan 26.9%
Louisiana Tech: 25.4%
Montana Tech: 30.6%
Texas Tech 25.2%
New Mexico 36.7%

Yes, there is a large difference between MIT and the University of New Mexico. CalTech is also very low, but even Montana Tech is not especially high, and Michigan is higher than Louisiana Tech and Texas Tech (they are probably not statistically different).

University of Missouri at Rolla and North Dakota State University must each be a different "kind of R1" than I would have thought; only 8% and 10% of their tenured faculty, respectively, were female in 2006.

Having a bit of statistical background helps enormously to combat the anecdata conclusions. 

True that.

Also, you seem to be deliberately misinterpreting what kangaroo is saying. Give it a rest.
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