Re. why women leave the pipeline?

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Tue Jan 7 18:39:44 EST 1997


In article <32CFAA93.4BF3 at nospam.salk.edu>,
S L Forsburg <forsburg at nospam.salk.edu> wrote:
>
>Good point, I didnt mean to come across as saying quit your whining
> so much as, be informed!  


Susan and others,

I agree completely that it is our responsibility to "be informed"
about our career choices, but my experience has been that it's been
rather hard to really "be informed."  When I was an undergraduate, from
1983-87, I was told that there would be a lot of retirements from
university faculty, and that a lot of positions would be opening up.
However, those predictions, honestly made and well-researched, have 
turned out to be wrong, for the most part.  I was also told by a well-
meaning pre-med office that getting an MD-PhD was probably not a very
good idea if I wanted to do biomedical research, and that I would benefit
more from spending my time getting research experience than from going
to medical school.  The funding records of those that I know who have
MD-PhD's, relative to PhD's only, don't make this advice look very good
10 years later, either.  I haven't really tried the job market yet, as
I don't feel ready and have funding for 2 more years, so perhaps my 
"mere" PhD in Neuroscience and postdoctoral experience will be enough.
But I feel that I tried rather hard to "be informed" when I was an
undergraduate thinking about career options, and those who advised me\
were doing their best.  But much of the advice and information I received
has turned out to be wrong or otherwise useless nonetheless.  My point
is only that there are limits on how informed undergraduates can be
reasonably expected to be.

Karen

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.  
>
> 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.
> 
>> P.S. One last point. Susan makes a point I have heard before: The
>> complaints are old. And the response I have heard in dinenr party
>> conversations is But things are so much better now than they were even
>> 20
>> years ago! But you know what? They aren't. Susan points this out.
>> There are no female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and there aren't
>> female
>> university presidents and there are very few female powers that be in
>> any
>> field. So we've made progress at the low end of the totem pole, but
>> not
>> at the high end. I would be interested to hear what people think is
>> the
>> next step to making progress more aggressively at higher levels.....
>
>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 
>
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>S L Forsburg          forsburg at salk.edu
>The Salk Institute    http://flosun.salk.edu/~forsburg
>La Jolla, CA





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