Tuesday, May 26, 2009

progress = zero

In 1969, sociologist Alice Rossi presented the following data on women in her field, disturbingly similar to the current numbers for biology(and a variety of other fields, actually):

% of women at each stage:

undergraduate seniors planning to work in the field 43%
doctoral candidates in graduate school 30%
full-time assistant professors in the field 14%
full-time full professors in the field 4%

She goes on to say something relevant to all postdocs [although at the time research associate positions were dominated by women with PhDs who were generally not hired as faculty]:

"An excerpt from her report deplored the fact that research associates, even those with doctorates and ten or more years' experience, were still not allowed to apply for grants in their own name, whereas any new assistant professor could"

--from page 372 of Women Scientists in America, volume II by Margaret Rossiter

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17 Comments:

At 5:04 PM, Anonymous GradStudent said...

UNC: 31% of tenured and tenure-track faculty, 23% in the sciences.

http://uncnews.unc.edu/news/science-and-technology/wows-program-at-unc-to-support-women-science-faculty.html

2009 Science "Women compromise 34% of medical school faculty." further, "The 2007–08 Women in U.S. Academic Medicine: Statistics and Benchmarking Report found that, of the 34% of faculty members who are women, 40% are assistant professors, 29% are associate professors, and only 17% are full professors"

http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2009_01_30/caredit.a0900015


"The number of women with S&E doctorates employed in colleges and universities rose continuously between 1973 and 2006, while that of men rose more slowly, especially in the 1990s. Reflecting these trends, women constituted 33% of all academic S&E doctoral employment and 30% of full-time faculty[5] in 2006, up from 9% and 7%, respectively, in 1973 (NSB 2008)." This is considering only about 30% of Ph.D. condidates were female in the 1990s!

Further, see table two and three it will blow your mind!

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf08308/

How can you say things have not changed much?

 
At 10:23 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

GradStudent,

Nice Freudian slip there.

Be especially careful, because we're talking about words as much as numbers here, and they're lying to you.

Most of these studies include staff scientists in their numbers for "faculty", especially when they're trying to make themselves look good.

The only number in that first list that matters is the 34% of faculty members.

Same for the second batch. "The number of women with doctorates employed in colleges and universities" is a bullshit number. Many women have been employed in colleges and universities as secretaries and research associates, but that has NOTHING to do with women as faculty.

Your "30% of full-time faculty" includes ALL disciplines.

IN MY FIELD the numbers are still a whole lot worse than that.

Remember this one thing, if you got nothing else out of this exercise: AGGREGATE NUMBERS LIE.

See for example page 129 in the same book I referenced above, where numbers are broken down BY FIELD.

I'd also strongly suggest being careful about quoting NSF numbers as if they reflect reality.

Remember how NSF is always saying we have a shortage of PhDs???

Yeah, they've got the whole postdoc thing exactly right, so how could they not know about the various kinds of discrimination?[sarcasm]

Oh wait, that's right. THEY DON'T CARE.

 
At 10:27 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

AND ANOTHER THING, before I forget again.

The only numbers that really matter are the ones that show % CHANGE. The delta over time, if you will.

Do you think we've made as much progress as you would have expected in x number of years?

Did you know that when equal rights were first granted, universities were EXCLUDED from having to uphold them?

Yeah, a lot of things have slowed our progress. I'm sick of being told things will improve if we just sit around and wait.

 
At 10:52 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

P.S.

Funny, nobody even seems to have noticed the part about how research associates still can't apply for grants.

Huh. At least, nobody is arguing with that part as if it were false or exaggerated.

 
At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have been a 'research associate' for many many years because no one will hire me into a job with a higher job title. yet when I try to directly apply for higher jobs - faculty, research faculty, staff scientist in institues - I get rejected because i don't have a grant funding track record. Well, yeah of course I don't if I'm not allowed to even apply for grants!! How do people get those jobs then, were they never research associates or did they somehow manage to apply for grants even when they were???

 
At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Many women have been employed in colleges and universities as secretaries and research associates"

You're reaching here. I have never met a woman with a PhD working as a secretary or RA.

 
At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Funny, nobody even seems to have noticed the part about how research associates still can't apply for grants"

Why should someone without a PhD be allowed to apply for a grant? Unless you're referring to postdocs? RA's = technicians in the modern world.

 
At 9:12 AM, Blogger JaneB said...

Not arguing here!

Progress is unacceptably, dismally slow. (and part of that may well be because the conditions of work are particularly... how to put this politely... such that women make positive choices not to participate. Long hours cultures, aggressive competition, the continual stress of keeping everything running rather than ever getting to relax (in most areas you apply for 5-10X as much money as you actually get - it can be worse than this). This needs FIXING not using as an explanation why there are few women, because it's unhealthy for everyone regardless of gender).

You are also correct, there are many sources of funding that can't be applied for by non-faculty post-doctoral researchers, especially the larger, group-supporting funds.

In my field, there are also a wide variety of things open to post-docs and NOT open to over 40s, 'continuing positions' (tt or tenured) etc., but these are mostly less substantial awards, and don't go far enough to address the issue - they just allow post-docs to move from working-on-boss'-project to working-on-project-I-designed-in-PI's-lab, they don't offer long-term job security or much if anything in the way of group-building resources. A useful step - but one that needs to be followed by a tt-job or access to more open-ended funds allowing true independence as a researcher-PI, if it's not to offer false hope.

You may not be willing to countenance leaving the US - but have you looked at the EU funding? Are any of the top Marie-Curie Centre of Excellence awards open to non-EU citizens? They really are a significant change in the way post-doctoral careers are imagined... for the elite few stars, as least

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 9:05 said:

I have never met a woman with a PhD working as a secretary or RA.Ah, more anecdata! I've never seen it, therefore it must not exist?

Point being, I HAVE.

also re: Anon 9:07's statement:

RA's = technicians in the modern world.Wrong. Many places include postdocs in this job title. Check your facts. I was just looking at a university yesterday that does this.

@Anon 11:27 pm who said:

How do people get those jobs then, were they never research associates or did they somehow manage to apply for grants even when they were???It's the latter, according to what I understand. Some places make exceptions, particularly if you have someone higher up the ladder supporting you.

For those of us who don't are SOL.

@GradStudent,

I don't think you understood what I wrote.

Let me spell it out for you a little more: Women faculty includes ALL LEVELS, i.e. women who have been faculty for decades already.

The 30% of women who get PhDs do NOT all go on to become faculty, not even close.

Check your numbers again. You're making some seriously huge errors if you think women are having a high rate of success getting faculty positions.

 
At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have never met a woman with a PhD working as a secretary or RA.Ah, more anecdata! I've never seen it, therefore it must not exist?

Point being, I HAVE."

And so how is THAT not anecdata? I've seen it, therefore it is prevalent and widespread?? Show me your data, that demonstrates more than 0.5% of women with PhD's work as secretaries or technicians. Your point was that the number of women working in universities is skewed by those who are secs or techs. My point is that, logically, those numbers are so small as to make no difference. Feel free to try to refute this, but I don't think you have an argument here.

 
At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What JaneB said:
You may not be willing to countenance leaving the US - but have you looked at the EU funding? Are any of the top Marie-Curie Centre of Excellence awards open to non-EU citizens?Check the Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowships:
http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/people/international-dimension_en.html

 
At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Besides NRSAs and the recent K99s, I think you have to involve yourself in your advisor's R01 writing whenever you can (or if you're past the NRSA/K99 stage). I'm sure a lot of the recent RC1 challenge grants were written by postdocs and submitted under their advisor's name (we had several). This strategy can fall two ways: 1. postdoc is exploited by advisor or hopefully 2. advisor passes these achievements on to search committees.

It's also good to have at least one R01 proposal "in your head" that you can quickly communicate to potential future employers you might meet at conferences, etc.

 
At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anon9:05 and Anon9:07: You're reaching here. I have never met a woman with a PhD working as a secretary or RA.Why should someone without a PhD be allowed to apply for a grant? Unless you're referring to postdocs? RA's = technicians in the modern world.i don't know what field you are in, but in my experience Research Associate is just another title for postdoc or someone who is PAST THE PHD but doesn't have a permanent job.

Research ASSISTANTS are the job title used for people without PhDs.

Postdocs are classified as Research Fellows or Research Associates. The former is when you have a fellowship supporting you, obviously. The latter is if you are not currently on fellowship and instead are being paid from a grant or some other non-fellowship soft money.

 
At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 9:05 and 9:07 here.

Sorry about the semantics. Where I come from, a postdoc is a "research fellow". "Research associate" is the title in industry (again, where I come from) for a non-Ph.D. level scientist (i.e. what is referred to as a technician in academia). So we sometimes refer to non-Ph.Ds as "R.A.s". Again, semantics and it apparently varies greatly depending on your department, institution, and area of the country. MsPhD almost exclusively refers to postdocs as "postdoc", so when she started calling us research associates it threw me off.

 
At 3:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MsPhd:
I'm curious about something (genuinely):


undergraduate seniors planning to work in the field 43%
doctoral candidates in graduate school 30%
full-time assistant professors in the field 14%
full-time full professors in the field 4%


Do you know to what extent the dropoff is due to lower acceptance rates for women and to what extent (if any) it is due to lower application rates?

I'd like to know whether
a) women who finish undergrad are less likely to be admitted as doctoral candidates; or
b) women who finish undergrad are less likely to even apply for such

And of course the same question at the other stages.

Either way is bad, but I think it might be worth knowing (and you being somewhat of an expert on these things you may know).

 
At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is important to understand if/why women are voluntarily choosing to leave academia. I think people do understand that this is part of the numbers. the debate is over the details:

1. are they choosing a more "natural" life (e.g. raising children)?
1a. is this considered more natural due to patriarchal influences?
1b. is that a good thing or a bad thing?

2. are they being forced out due to hostile environments?
2a. why are environments hostile towards women and what can we do about it?
2b. is this a positive or negative selection factor? (i.e. are only the women that overcome truly suited for academia?)

 
At 2:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anonymous16 (from Anonymous15)

Having women underrepresented is bad. It hurts the fields (trust me, I am a male and I can tell we are missing out by chasing away the women).

I don't know whether "voluntarily" leaving is actually part of the numbers or not. Do you?

Men and women both leave voluntarily, for many reasons... is there any real reason to assume women do so at higher rates?

I think I'm going to see if I can get ahold of data on this.

If women leave because of hostile environments, etc., then something needs to be done about that. But if women are simply not allowed to continue in higher numbers then the solution is very different.

 

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