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Salary gaps in faculty

Cheryl Fillekes fillekes at ihug.co.nz
Wed Sep 15 18:38:29 EST 1999

My $0.02 is...

"Why so slow?"  One of the answers you'll hear, a specious answer,
is that "women have children and men do not."  When you point out
that for every woman that has a child (and biology Ph.D.'s *should*
be able to figure this one out) there is also a man who has a child.
Strange, but true!  Here's the correct answer:

"Oh, do come now Professor Oldfella.  Surely you can't mean to
imply that parthenogenesis is *that* common!"

Then, they backpedal "Oh, but women have to take care of them..."
and then go on to simultaneously blame all the ills of society on
(a) women who work outside the home, leaving their children
to become social deviants AND (b) welfare mothers who do not
work outside the home.  Mothers are to blame no matter WHAT
we do.   I suppose the solution to all of society's ills would be for
mothers on welfare to leave their children to go to work, and that
mothers who work should quit their jobs and stay home, even if
it means going on welfare.  It's recursive.  I've never gotten one of
these people to specify on which time-scale this switching should
take place.  Yearly?  Hourly?  Once every 3.14158... seconds?
(It's an irrational position, so it deserves an irrational number!)

Jonathan Cole, in his book "Fair Science" which is a bit dated by
now, cites one of his own studies -- which showed, in an attempt to
prove otherwise through a detailed survey -- that, controlling for all
other factors, women scientists with children are *more* productive
than women scientists who do not have children.  It's a great one
to pull out of the drawer when some sexist jack**s is fulminating
on about how "women have children and men do not"    as the
explanation for the salary gap.

Anyway, consider the fact that the Family and Medical
Leave Act does not cover people in "limited term" positions,
(i.e. ALL untenured faculty positions, including tenure-track) and
likewise does not cover postdocs and graduate student employees,
and you'll find part of the real answer to the question "Why So Slow?"   --
particularly when you combine the complete lack of job protection
in pregnancy women scientists have until they reach tenure
with the attitudes behind the *usual* (incorrect and irrational)
response that "women have children and men do not."

Also, I would suspect that many a woman, upon encountering
this "women have children and men do not" attitude among
scientific leaders-- may lose quite a lot of respect
for the intellectual integrity of those leaders.

One of the main attractions of working in academics is that,
in theory, you don't have to work with stupid people -- and
in academic science, people are supposed operate in the realm
of the fair and the objective, not the prejudiced, irrational
and subjective -- again, in theory.  We find, however, that
these theories do not hold up in the cold light of experiment.

The salary gap and the 20 year lack of change in percentages
of women senior faculty indicated in the MIT study provide
yet more experimental evidence that academic science
leaders are prejudiced, subjective, irrational -- and not even
particularly bright, because they can't see the internal
contradictions in their positions.  Are they worth working
with, or even worth paying any attention to?  Not IMHO.

After all, if their judgment is that clouded by prejudice in
ordinary human resources issues, how can we trust their
judgment on complex scientific issues?

Cheryl Fillekes, Ph.D.
SailFlow Software Ltd.

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