encouraging women to pursue doctorates, despite market?

Sarah Boomer sarai at u.washington.edu
Fri Jan 12 13:32:54 EST 1996

	I have replied to two undergrad's seeking information on whether 
to pursue doctorates in the past week.  My own perspective - as a 
molecular biologist/microbiology graduate student 6 months from the PhD 
- is a little down, however;  our dept. is downsizing the number of students 
it will accept based on the job market flooding;  we have had held 
semi-formal dept. functions/meetings/discussion groups to address the 
supposed job crisis and shortly will hold an alternate career day to 
address non-acedemic/research things PhDs can pursue.
	As a woman scientist in a lab headed and by a woman scientist
(where the women actually outnumber the men), I (and other women) have
reached a conundrum:  we don't really want to discourage women who want
their PhDs but we want to be realistic.  Having listened to many women
speak on their trials and tribulations with applying for tenure-track
positions - or achieving tenure, I am concerned that young women, in
general, may respond more strongly to words of discouragement than a young
man - and there may be a disproportionate drop-out of women during this
so-called job crisis.  I heard an eloquent talk given locally by a tenured
geologist who remarked that it is her opinion, based on sitting on lots of
search committees, that less women overall apply for big positions but the
women who do are represented disproportionately in the upper 10%.  The
interpretation of this was that women tended to self-select prior to
applying and were more cautious than men who tended to apply, apply,
apply, regardless.  Certainly, the women who chose to apply were qualified
and it is hard to say whether women who did not were correct in their
self-selection.  The concern, however, is that young women - who are
perhaps already nervous and don't have a lot of experience or confidence -
will be prematurely scared away, and in higher numbers than men.
	At the same time, however, I (and my women friends) constantly ask
ourselves if it fair to recommend pursuing doctorates to anyone when the
graduation times are taking longer, when the number of post-docs are
getting greater, and when (at least from our perspectives and despite
years of feeding the pipeline), there is still ample discrimination - 
whether against women, families, married couples (male or female) or 
people who, for whatever reason, cannot commit to 14 hour workdays - 
especially given the high risk nature of the "reward" at the end.  

	I would greatly appreciate thoughts on this matter.  I hope I 
haven't recreated a recent thread, having only read this group a month now.

	Thank you,  

	Sarah Boomer

Sarah Boomer				email:  sarai at u.washington.edu		
Dept. of Microbiology			work phone:  543-3376
Box 357242				work FAX:  543-3376
University of Washington		
Seattle, WA  98195	

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