Risks and False Rewards
Lately I am faced with a strange choice:
a) an offer to relocate to a really undesirable location for what sounds like a major step forward in terms of being valued for my abilities and helped along my career path
b) stay where I am, which is much riskier, and where I am miserable almost every day, but which is more likely to be finite and has the potential to be much, much flashier and therefore might put me on a more upwardly mobile trajectory in my career path
While mulling this over, and wondering when to break the news to the people here that I'm seriously considering leaving, things have been pretty crappy, and in general, only getting crappier.
Things getting crappier here do not make me think "Gee, I definitely want to stay!"
And I really feel that, of the people I should talk to about how unappreciated I feel around here, none of them are particularly sympathetic to women struggling to make a go of it in academic science, even with all the odds against us. They're not blatantly sexist assholes, they're the more insidious kind: the ones who are threatened by women, but don't consciously realize that they display subtle little ways of favoring men...
I was talking to someone today about how I feel as though the non-PhDs around me are often treated with more respect, expected to work a lot less, paid more, and generally given better resources in terms of the authority to get their work done, than I am.
So I said, I feel like I'm being punished for having a PhD.
This person reminded me that many people believe there are more rewards for going the PhD/postdoc route.
Though she did acknowledge that it is noticeably riskier.
Then we were interrupted, or I would have told her that not only are the risks getting riskier, but the rewards are getting riskier.
But clearly no one realizes that this is part of why we're losing legions of smart people -especially women- at the postdoc level. Most women I know tend to look at an impossible, crappy situation and have an instinctive yet practical response that goes something like,
"There's no way I'd subject myself to that! Isn't that the definition of insanity?"
When you pay non-PhD lab staff more than graduate students or postdocs, you encourage them to stay longer and do menial work. Ok. How else will you get anyone to stick around and do menial work? So that makes sense for science as a whole.
But when you pay graduate students and postdocs less than non-PhD staff, AND give them zero job security, AND expect them to work constantly with no reasonable amount of hope of ever making it to the next level...
Isn't this what they call a zero-sum game?