Uh-oh... I've been silently reading this newsgroup for a couple of
months, but of course I'm casting in my two cents now, at a time when
there's all this work to complete before the holidays (or _during_ the
"holidays"). Bear with me, and let me pretend I'm doing something
I didn't see the original letter complaining about a lack of
professionalism in this newsgroup (or in academics? wasn't clear), but I
think I see why some might be frustrated. When I saw the title
"women-in-bio" I thought, "Aha! finally here is the opportunity to make
the fact I am a woman an ADVANTAGE in the competitive world of science!" I
guess I was hoping for some kind of old-girl's-network, with lots of job
postings, career information, and secret tips on getting by in a world
dominated for so long by men. From comments by others ("Solidarity") it
seems like I've not been the only one hoping for some magical career
What I've found, of course, has been different...most of the
people writing in seem to be like me-- struggling up the rungs, wondering
what they can do to make life better, and wondering whether their gender
has anything to do with the shape of their professional lives. Nobody seems
to have the answers yet. All the same, I enjoy skimming the
At any rate, it seems to me that this discussion can be anything
we want it to be-- there's room for consideration of all sorts of
questions... just if you've got a meaty question you should go ahead and
ask. Don't be shy.
Here, I'll throw a few questions into the ring:
(1) I read somewhere about a "pink-collar ghettoization" occurring in
the biological sciences, where many women get stalled working as
technicians,or as post-docs, research associates, etc. where their male
counterparts go on to graduate school, get assistant professorships,
tenure. In real life, it does seem like most career techs are women, most
tenured professors are men.
Are the causes of this inequality still present? Some of it is
the result of social forces in action a generation ago... but are
young women students failing to get their degrees out of
proportion to young male doctoral candidates? Are female postdocs today
still failing to get jobs out of proportion to the number applying? Are
female assistant professors failing to get tenure out of proportion to the
number seeking tenure? Is the proportion of woman scientists _seeking_
advancement out of whack? What can we do about this?
(2) I'm trying to separate out how much of today's "discrimination" at the
higher levels of academia is institutional and how much is the result of
the different socialization of men and women.
For instance, yesterday I wanted to review some statistical
theory. Instead, I spent time making my famous coffee cake for a lab
party, and also did a lot of errands like taking out the garbage,
Christmas shopping, and caring for an ailing parent. It seemed
like I never had a moment to do what I wanted to do-- my life
was constrained by other people's needs. Meanwhile, my significant other
went to lab and did some experiments. I was cursing myself as I ground
nuts for the coffee cake topping--next time I'm bringing soda.
It's all these stupid choices that may bring me down, I'm afraid.
Yet it seems to me that I can't be happy neglecting my family and other
interests. Like a lot of other woman students, I seem to have priority
conflicts that my male peers choose to ignore. In the end, I wouldn't mind
a rounded-out life, not all science, -- which is the conclusion that a
lot of career techs and second-string female scientists seem to have
reached. Maybe the one-sided overachievers (often men?) are the losers.
But then again, I know that I could kick ass if I work up to my
full potential! Is there anyone out there who's got it all? What's your
secret? Can it be conveyed to people with average metabolisms, who need
Thanks for reading this long letter, folks! Hope this stirs up
some good replies!