professionalism, women, and Oprah! (looonnngggg)

ktlee+ at ktlee+ at
Tue Dec 17 09:24:28 EST 1996

Jeanhee Chung wrote:
>         Here, I'll throw a few questions into the ring:
> (1)  I read somewhere about a "pink-collar ghettoization" occurring in
> the biological sciences, where many women get stalled working as
> technicians,or as post-docs, research associates, etc. where their male
> counterparts go on to graduate school, get assistant professorships,
> tenure.  In real life, it does seem like most career techs are women, most
> tenured professors are men.

I think there has been some progress, but it's kind of hard to 
measure.  I bet if you look at the stats, there are lots of women 
without tenure, but my guess is that some are in the tenure-track.  I 
have just recently found a tenure-track job.  The faculty here is 
overwhelmingly male.  In the last decade UPJ has made great strides in 
hiring women for faculty positions.  However these women are either 
newly tenured, or tenure-track! Thus, the senior faculty are mostly 
male.  It will take a long time for that to change because of the 
tenure system.  I will not come up for tenure for 6 years!  In another 
decade, the faculty here will probably be more even.  (Unless there is 
some incredible backlash...don't get me started on that!)

> (2) I'm trying to separate out how much of today's "discrimination" at the
> higher levels of academia is institutional and how much is the result of
> the different socialization of men and women.

I think socialization plays a big part (maybe not a bigger part 
though).  I am single, but I have worked really hard to have a life 
outside of work.  I'm not sure that's as important for my male 
colleagues.  Some have sort of instant outside lives because they have 
stay-at-home wives and kids.  I am not saying it's easy for them, but 
it's probably easier than it is for women with husbands and kids.
 I was cursing myself as I ground
> nuts for the coffee cake topping--next time I'm bringing soda.

I have, for several years, been ribbed for bringing cookies from the 
supermarket, or hickory farms cheese balls to parties.  I hate to cook 
for myself. 

 In the end, I wouldn't mind
> a rounded-out life, not all science,  -- which is the conclusion that a
> lot of career techs and second-string female scientists seem to have
> reached.  Maybe the one-sided overachievers (often men?) are the losers.

Maybe part of the problem is the way we categorize scientists.  Why is 
it that we consider techs and scientists with enormous teaching loads, 
second string?  (Believe it or not, teaching is also considered a 
"ghetto" of sorts. My teaching load is 12 contact hours per term, 
which doesn't leave a lot of time for research.)

Is there anyone out there who's got it all?  What's your
> secret?  Can it be conveyed to people with average metabolisms, who need
> sleep?

I don't think it can be done.  I once heard an actress say "You can't 
have it all, at least, you can't have it all at once."

Sorry I couldn't be more optimistic.  I think things are getting 
better. Some of the problems women scietists have are not just a 
problem in science but a problem for any woman with a demanding 
career.  Is it any easier to be a doctor, put in long hours at a law 
firm, or spend 14 hour days on a TV sound stage or do two shows a day 
in a theatre if you have a husband and kids at home?   Probably not. 
Given the number of media personalities (female) that have left the 
business lately to have a personal life and the number of my 
classmates from Mt. Holyoke (a women's college) that are stay-at-home 
mom's or working part time to spend time with the kids, I'd say this 
is a general problem, not specific to us.

I had a discussion with my mom once about choices. When I was born my 
mom was teaching first grade.  She had no choice but to retire from 
teaching. (34 years ago you did not teach after you had a baby at 
home.)  She has never understood why women don't stay home with their 
children, since it's better for the kids.  I explained it to her this 
way: ok Ma, I take 4 years to get a BA, 7 years for PhD, two years as 
a post doc, two years in temp. positions and finally get a 
tenure-track job.  While working towards tenure I meet somebody and we 
get married, deciding to hold off on kids until I have tenure and a 
half-year sabbatical.  At that point I will be 40.  I have a baby and 
what? Kiss my career goodbye to stay at home?  I've finally got a 
really stable job at the age of 40 and I'm gonna quit?  My mom got a 
very strange look on her face as she realized the difficulty of this 
kind of choice.  Her answer: "I'm glad I didn't have to make that kind 
of decision."

 We know what the problem is, now what can we do about it?

Karen Lee
Asst. Prof.-Biology
Univ. Pittsburgh at Johnstown

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