Improving the Applicant Pool

Paul Barton-Davis pauld at
Mon Feb 22 12:56:28 EST 1993

In article <1mav8b$5i2 at> pallas at (Sarah Pallas) writes:
>In article <1993Feb19.135409.12130 at> clh at writes:
>>So my questions are this: Why do we (anecdotally or from studies) 
>>think women are dropping out at this stage more than men?
>>(there was an interesting article in American Scientist a few years 
>>ago about this).
>It is my impression that a big reason is kind of a Catch-22.  Young
>women don't see very many other women in positions of power (faculty),
>and so they have a hard time seeing themselves there.  Also, they've
>been told they have to choose between career and family if they stay
>in academics (which isn't true if they have a spouse who is a real

At the risk of being mildly inflammatory, I'd suggest that in fact,
our current conception of science and parenthood do not mix, "true
partner" or not. The whole ethos of scientific research being a
variant on priesthood, with all its intensity (albeit coming in waves)
and worldly isolation, seems to me seriously at odds with most current
western ideas about good parenting.

This is not to say that I think that a different science is impossible
- far from it. However, in an activity like science, where it is often
the case that the more you do, the further you get, the kudos are
often going to go to the people who are most "involved." We need a
quite different kind of recognition system for good science if it is
to be compatible with good parenting, and even then, I have my doubts
that the demands of child rearing, even in a mutually supportive
environment (extending outward into the community as far as you like),
are compatible with scientific enquiry in the areas generally funded
by contemporary society.

What do the female scientists/mothers who read this think ? Does you
role as a mother interfere with your role as a scientist, or vice
versa ? Do these roles strengthen and reinforce one another ? Do you
think that a someone with some other important dimensions to their
lives can be a front-ranking scientist ?

-- paul (whose wife reads this, and will undoubtedly answer yes :-)
hybrid rather than pure; compromising rather than clean;    | Militant Agnostic
distorted rather than straightforward; ambiguous rather than| I Don't Know
articulated; both-and rather than either-or; the difficult  |   and You Don't
unity of inclusion rather than the easy unity of exclusion. |   Know Either

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