Friday, December 11, 2009

Perception hole

From a comment:

Anonymous said...
"My point in #3 and 5 is not that men don't care about these things, absolutely they do. But women drop out in disproportionate numbers, and these are some of the reasons they cite."

Wait a second. Why would women drop out at disproportionate rates due to lack of money and job security?

In fact, if patriarchy is the norm (as you suggest), don't you think women have LESS pressure to earn well and have good jobs? Shouldn't this make it easier for them to adjust to the lesser pay and lower job security? In the patriarchal system, women don't have to be breadwinners and hence they can afford to pursue science almost along the lines as a hobby.



Woooooooooooooooo boy. We got some work to do here.

I'm going to take a stab at this, and hopefully some others will write in the comments here as well.

Assumption 1a: That "patriarchy" means men take care of women


TRUE. The definition of the word patriarchy includes "a family headed by a man".

FALSE. Because not all women want to be or are taken care of by men; similarly not all men take care of or want to take care of women.

Assumption 1b: so women don't want to or need to work.

FALSE. Patriarchy has two other definitions, which are the ones more relevant to the point I raised (although I did not use the word patriarchy, you did).

As you can read here in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, patriarchy also means control by men of a disproportionately large share of power and a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy.

Although you could argue that nobody wants to work, I think you'll have to agree that if nobody is taking care of you, you need to work.

Most of us fall into that last category. We need the income. Also, there are various benefits to working besides just paying the bills. Being denied a career means being denied all of the fulfillment and stimulation of

a) an intellectual environment
b) making tangible progress and
c) getting feedback when you make significant contributions.

Assumption 2: That women should want to pursue science as a hobby.

I guess you're also assuming within this that most men who pursue science as a career would also want it as a hobby if they could afford to do that?

But in your version, women can do science as a hobby, but men don't have to??

So let's break it down.

FALSE: Science as a hobby

My type of science can't be done outside a university or a company. It is too expensive. It is unsafe. I can't do it at home in my basement. This is not just true for me because I am a woman; it is true for everyone in my field. We have to have careers in science if we want to do science at all. That's just the way it is.

And as I think I have written extensively here before, I want to direct my own project(s). I don't want someone else telling me what to do. So this means science is a full-time job for me. Not a hobby.

I want job security just as much as the next guy. Being a woman does not make it easier for me or any of my friends to "adjust" to being paid badly and not knowing where I'll be from year to year.

And in the current economy, in the current world, most everyone I know needs two incomes. So yes, women worry a lot about finances and job security because they want to have kids and own a house and take care of their parents and siblings when they get ill. Not less than men; maybe even more than men, if the statistics of why women leave disproportionately are any indication.

My personal impression is that women worry more and feel more pressure from our own parents to "settle down" in a secure, stable situation.

Men are allowed, in our society, to take more risks and take longer doing it.

If I want to have kids, I have only a few more years to decide that I want to do it. Men have more time to play around. That's biology working against us.

So by that logic, if anything, we should let everyone go through grad school and postdoc and get a job as fast as they can, but especially women if they can and want to.

But we don't even take that into account.

We're stuck with an incredibly inefficient, patriarchal system that wastes everybody's time and drives most women to run screaming from science as a career. I could have done ten times more science by now if not for the inefficiencies in the system.

This is why almost all of my friends left academic science for industry science. They felt it was possible working in industry to make more progress more quickly; get paid what they are worth; work more reasonable hours (because they can get more done in less time!); and potentially move up more easily (although this last part is actually not the case).

Women leave disproportionately because academic science is still based on a patriarchal system that doesn't work for us. Which isn't to say that science is working all that well for most men, either- I think the pipeline numbers show very clearly that it only works for a tiny minority of people, and the vast majority of those who major in science end up leaving for other career paths.

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At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Karl said...

I have a question.

Maybe I missed it's answer somewhere. If that's the case, I appologize.

I've been reading your blog on and off for years. You log on, nearly daily, and describe countless horrible things. You seem so trapped and miserable.

Is there another side that is fun and rewarding and worth the pain?

If not, why are you still there?

At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why would women drop out at disproportionate rates due to lack of money and job security? "


Women, like men, need to earn money to pay the bills and put food on the table. Not every woman has (a) a husband who is rich enough to provide everything on his own (b) married (c) planning to marry. (d) wants to be dependent on the husband

Even if a woman is married to a wealthy high-earning husband, it's still a good idea for her to not be financially dependent on him in case of divorce. (how many women have been trapped in abusive or bad marriages because they were financially dependent on their husbands)

Therefore, making money is important to women too. And therefore so is job security.

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

female scientists want and need careers as much as the male scientists do. The patriarchy comes in the form that those who are allowed to have a career are those who fit the traditional male role model.

Why should women be OK with making less money just because the men don't expect them to be the breadwinners? it's a double insult - from being paid less than what their male counterparts are making, AND their male counterparts saying this is the way it should be.

At 12:50 AM, Blogger Bee said...

Thought you might find my related recent post interesting (see also comments)

She figures there's way to go

At 2:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

All I did was point out the following 4 step argument:

1. YOU SAY that there is patriarchy in science which pressurises women to think in certain ways.

2. PATRIARCHY SAYS that it is okay for women not to achieve much by way of money/career growth.

3. It follows that women who are feeling the pressure of patriarchy couldnt be feeling the pressure to earn big bucks and a good career.

4. YOU SAY that women are being pushed out of science disproportionately due to lack of job security and decent pay.

Line 3 contradicts Line 4.

NOTE: I have NOT expressed any of MY opinions here. I have just pointed out a contradiction in YOUR rationale.

The contradiction exists independently of how I think.

If you ask me, I don't even respect modern women who are not committed to their careers. This last one is an opinion. See the difference?

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Lauren said...

I'm slightly disgusted by the way this person implies that, as a woman, I should be happy to do less than the men. As if it is comforting for someone to be paid less with a lesser job security, both of which are really saying that someone has a lesser value. People (both men AND women) want to feel valued in what they do. As a double science major undergraduate planning to pursue a PhD and a career in research, I would be deeply offended if someone implied that science were merely a hobby for me.
Therefore, it would not be a luxury for me to be able to dabble in it as I please. If I were to earn less and have lower job security I'd be pissed! It really is a way of saying "you're not valued as highly ." And man OR woman, it hurts to know you're not valued. Especially when there's no grounds for it other than your gender. I'm not busting my ass now just so I can meet a man to take care of me. It would not be a luxury for science to simply be my hobby.

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe your rebuttal, but nor do I believe the original argument. Sorry, it is more complicated.

One thing I learned that I found interesting is that women are much better represented in science in Italy, and possibly in a few other European countries. The study authors speculated (or perhaps had evidence, I don't remember) that this was partly because science jobs were not paid nearly so well there, making it less of a status thing. Perhaps another reason, though, is that Italy is a much smaller country, with a smaller academic market---so there is much less competition for jobs and more job security.

You do make some good points. I am not optimistic that anything will change. It is so much cheaper to hire temporary scientists---postdocs and graduate students---than to hire faculty. This leads to people dropping out (especially better people with more options), and hence a decline in scientific quality. However, that is a long-term effect. In the short-term, science funders want to make thing as cheap as possible, and that is driving a slow race to the bottom.

At 3:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anon 2:10:
1. YOU SAY that there is patriarchy in science which pressurises women to think in certain ways.


2. PATRIARCHY SAYS that it is okay for women not to achieve much by way of money/career growth.


3. It follows that women who are feeling the pressure of patriarchy couldnt be feeling the pressure to earn big bucks and a good career.

No, because you miss several important points that undermine your logic:
(a) women are capable of holding onto their own viewpoints even in the face of pressure from the patriarchy

(b) such viewpoints tend to be in opposition to the patriarchy's view

(C) Coercion increases opposition. Because the patriarchy is pressuring them to think in certain ways, women tend to all the more oppose or disagree with the patriarchy's viewpoint. It's just that through having less power they are unsuccessful in overturning the patriarchy.

In other words, being oppressed by or "feeling the pressure of" the patriarchy doesn't mean you agree with them! "feeling the pressure of the patriarchy" does NOT equal "think the same way they do".

Therefore, women who are "feeling the pressure of the patriarchy" (i.e., feeling the negative effects of coercion) are most definitely NOT in agreement with the patriarchy. Therefore, they do NOT subscribe to the patriarchy's notion that it's OK and expected for women to not achieve as much (your point#2).

4. YOU SAY that women are being pushed out of science disproportionately due to lack of job security and decent pay.


Line 3 contradicts Line 4.
No it doesn't because your line 3 was wrong.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger FrauTech said...

I'd only add the corollary that it's not just academic science that is strangled by the patriarchy. Other than that agree with the points made in the post.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps patriarchal isn't the correct word. I've found that so many scientists and labs fall under "provincial." Definition: (primarily #3)

1 : the superior of a province of a Roman Catholic religious order
2 : one living in or coming from a province
3 a : a person of local or restricted interests or outlook b : a person lacking urban polish or refinement

There are a lot of educated people/scientists who simply lack the class to be able to deal with equality, women as colleagues and peers. Some of these are the same men who claim to be so fair and "feminists" because they have daughters and they are the worst because they talk about it all the time.


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