As an American, I'm a minority in my profession.
Yes, I am a minority in more ways than one.
I'm planning to attend a couple of meetings this year, so I was looking at the breakdown of speakers on the schedule.
I was surprised to note not just the breakdown of women (25-30% if you count both short and long talks, more like 10% if you count only women giving long talks). But honestly, I'm not that surprised.
You might be surprised to note, however, two things. First, both of these meetings with less-than-parity involved at least one woman organizer. So it's not like only men were involved in choosing the speakers (it is widely argued that having more women help with these tasks will necessarily result in parity, but that's not exactly true).
Second, everyone else who looked at these lists thought they were seeing parity (e.g. they thought it was 50%).
When I told them it's actually twice as bad as they perceive, they were surprised.
Our perception is so skewed, we don't even recognize how bad things are. (Quantitative measures, people! Use them! Love them!)
Personally, I was much more surprised to note how few US-born scientists there are in the US. At all levels. We're not just less than half, we're on average only a quarter of the total scientists at the post-PhD levels.
I knew that the postdoc numbers have drifted past the mid-line in recent years, with more than half the postdocs in our country coming from other countries.
And we know that while there are almost equal numbers of women postdocs as male postdocs, especially in the early years, for some reason I hadn't quite grasped what the national origin breakdown translated into for science faculty.
In other words, most of our science faculty in the US are not from the US. Already. We're not talking about outsourcing eventually becoming the norm, as for some industries. Outsourcing of scientific talent has already been the norm for a lot of years, but no one has been talking about it.
So I'm really feeling like a rare species these days, and not in a good way. There are some America-born women who are faculty, to be sure. But there are very few American-born women postdocs.
I can't help feeling like it's somehow perceived as more okay to be smart and professional if you have a cool accent, or that it's somehow more permissible to occasionally make a mistake and blame it on English not being your first language?
I've heard people say that recipients of NIH fellowships (as grad students and/or postdocs) will have a better chance at a faculty position, but I don't see that supported by the numbers.
Only US citizens are eligible for those funding sources, so if it were a real advantage, we would not be in the minority of those getting hired for faculty positions.
Among the students from my graduate school, it's mostly those who came from outside the US (I'm not saying 'overseas' because I'm including Canada) who are getting interviews now.
What's up with that? I don't see any obvious correlations with publications, creativity, or any other measure that should correlate with productivity or potential for success.
Is this just a cultural perception that they work harder? Is this the "my visa is running out" phenomenon I've blogged about before, where PIs prioritize which postdocs they promote based on who is most likely to be deported?
Is this just another factor working against me that I didn't even know about?