Re. why women leave the pipeline?

Sabine Dippel sabine at hlrz28.zam.kfa-juelich.de
Tue Jan 7 12:45:21 EST 1997


In article <32CFAA93.4BF3 at nospam.salk.edu>, forsburg at nospam.salk.edu 
(S L Forsburg) writes:
|> 
|> Good point, I didnt mean to come across as saying quit your whining
|>  so much as, be informed!  My post was prompted in part by all
|> the non-cyber complaining I hear around me from postdocs and
|> students I meet in my travels to meetings, seminars, etc.  For example,
|> at the Women In Cell Biology meeting at the ASCB meeting last month,
|> a discussion about how women are doing in science overall became
|> a series of complaints from unhappy postdocs in the audience.  A lot of
|> men are just as unhappy over the lack of jobs and the anti-family
|> pressure
|> of the current career structure....some of these issues do transcend
|> gender.  

Oh yes, they do. All these people I know who lately "leaked out of the 
pipeline," and are so happy with it that I keep wondering if I shouldn't
get out too are men. And many reasons they give (I want to live a life outside
work, I want a family) are not related to gender (though I admit that in the
family case, for women "I want a family" usually means "I want time for a 
family" and for men very often means "I want a secure job to be able to make
a living for a family"). 

However, there are statistics (at least for Germany) that show that women are
more likely to leak out of the pipeline. But then, these statistics show the 
same for industry, etc.

|> 
|>  Yes, as 
|> Alice points out, things are unfair and still biased, and the system
|> isnt working terribly well.  But the real issue is not to repeat that 
|> (we should all know it by now) so much as decide what we are going to do 
|> about it?  And that's the discussion I hoped to initiate.
|>

And that's actually the tough question. As Susan says, leaving the game is
a personal decision everyone has to make herself -- and the consequences
to be considered should only be personal consequences, because this decision
affects our personal lives so strongly. So we are in a bit of a fix here --
because even if made on personal grounds, these decisions have broader
consequences. 

As Susan mentioned in a previous posting, sometimes (at least in my 
predominantly male field, physics) people would like to hire a woman for 
a certain job, but don't find one. No, really, even for less important things
than hiring this can happen. My advisor lately told me that he intended to 
invite at least one woman per semester for the departmental seminars (this
may sound ridiculous, but I think that in the 20 or so years my university
exists there has never been a female speaker in these seminars -- mind, we're
talking about a physics department). So he asked if I knew any women he might
invite (for these seminars they should be at least at assistant prof. level),
since he came up only with 2 possible female speakers. He was very happy when 
I pulled 4 more out of my sleeve -- now he can be really revolutionary and 
try for 2 per semester if they want to come. 

Actually, I do not say there are no women available -- they are just still too 
few (in physics at least) to be noticed well enough. So instead of whining about
how we don't have that "old boys network", maybe we should work harder at 
developing that sort of network for ourselves. 
  
|> If I may be a bit of a devil's advocate, a lot of this discussion has
|>  implied that many women don't want to make progress at the higher
|> levels--to go back to the metaphor, they've decided that the game isn't
|> worth playing.  Leaving the game is of  course a perfectly valid 
|> individual choice but as  I keep harping, has broader consequences to
|> the community. 
|> 
|> Things are better in that we have won the right to play, although some
|> of the rules are still  stacked up against us. Hard working women ahead
|> of
|> us broke down the barriers that prevented us from playing.  
|> But now that we can do it, *do we want it?*   
|> 
|> Saying that academic science has to change BEFORE we decide to 
|> play its game isn't a realistic alternative. I argue that we do not
|> change institutions by going away and avoiding them, but
|> by getting into the system and effecting change from inside. We have to
|> fight our own battles--which means, deciding whether they are worth
|> fighting.
|> 
|> -- susan 
|>
|> S L Forsburg          forsburg at salk.edu
|> The Salk Institute    http://flosun.salk.edu/~forsburg
|> La Jolla, CA

I really didn't want to cut this, even though I don't have anything to add,
because I think that sums up the situation quite well. Except maybe, that 
some people simply leave because they are tired of fighting these battles,
because they don't see any changes resulting from them -- which is a shame, 
not as far as they are considered, but as far as the system is considered.

Sabine

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