women in science poll; leaky pipeline

Sarah Boomer sarai at u.washington.edu
Tue Sep 24 20:55:17 EST 1996

With respect to my department, we certainly lack tenured or tenure track
women.  When I entered the program, there was one tenured woman who
actively took grad.  students and had been tenured by our department,
another tenured woman (by our dept) who did not take students and is more
in the medical school, and a third woman who was tenured by a local
research institute and adjoined (has an adjunct position).  Then there was
my boss, a "research assistant"  who has never been given tenure track
status or tenure, despite beyond stellar performance.  There were/are also
several research scientist women (2-3), most of whom are married to their
bosses and work in the lab;  none teach or have faculty power but do
participate indirectly in student training and publication.  There were,
contrarily, twelve tenure or tenure track men and only 1-2 men in
non-tenure positions.  As an incoming student looking through the pretty
glossy catalogs and seeing what seemed ok for representation by women, I
felt quite mislead by what I discovered in terms of the power/tenure or
grad. student taking capacities that existed.  Currently, we still have
the one adjunct tenured woman, the one tenured non-training woman, but the
other woman died (gee, that sounds grim in the middle of this note).  My
boss is still non tenure and we have since hired a new woman tenure track
who trains students.  All of the tenure track men have received tenure and
we will be in a hiring glut likely for years!  We have hired a couple new
male profs (at the tenure level) and lost the non tenure track men from
before;  there are at least two research scientist level male scientists
and there may be 1-2 non-tenure assistant professor who are male.

My former school, a small liberal arts school with a general biology
program was a little more egalitarian.  Out of 8 faculty, half were women
who eventually got tenure (except one who now runs a teaching lab
elsewhere).  All were PhD level and at least a couple have actively
assumed the chair.  I can't say that my impression of women's issues was
taken down several notches between undergrad. and grad. because of this
apparent difference or drop.  My undergrad.  boss, a great woman
scientist, sat me down and explicitly handed me all the literature from
Science about the "pipeline issue."  While she clearly wanted me to
succeed, she seemed concerned that I understand this issue - although
never point blank told me to expect this or that in grad. school. I think
she just wanted me to know that there weren't going to be the number of
women around as I was used to. Having done my women studies minor
throughout college, encountering problematic gender issues in grad. school
was almost a sick dream come true!  It was like everyone I'd read about
was materialized in some way.

So - what do women out there believe it the problem in the pipeline,
specifically as it relates to women attaining big university academic

Is there a new pipeline in industry or small colleges?  i.e. do we need to
redefine the pipeline for contemporary science?

I know a lot of men who drop out of science these days;  is the pipeline
perhaps wrongly reflecting something else (i.e. by counting men vs women
in acadmics now, are we measuring some stagnant pool of tenured
individuals who have been there a long time and maybe in 5-10 years it
will have more women or is have faculty turnover rates been worked into
the whole scenario).

Does the gender bias hold true for funding tendencies?  I know that my
boss has been asked to sit on reading committee after reading committee
because they want a certain number of women reading the grants - what type
of funding differences are going on because of these kinds of

Always curious,  Sarah
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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