Did we have it all and lose it?
nishir at OHSU.EDU
Mon Aug 24 23:37:35 EST 1998
OK. I may be talking to ether, but I couldn't ignore this post.
I probably fit into the "older woman" category that Susan mentions
(shudder-- I NEVER think of my self that way). So I am going to be 45
this year and I started my lab nearly 12 years ago and I got tenure 6
years ago (just barely under 40). The first thing is it was NOT easier
back then!! I was a post-doc for 6 years. And the funding cut-offs
were much worse-- for NINDS, where I applied for funding, the cutoffs
were between the 12th and the 18th percentiles-- now they are close to
the 20th. When I started my lab, I wrote 5 NIH grants before I got one
funded (1 went around for 3 cycles, then got funded-- the other for two
before I gave up because the first one got funded). This took nearly 3
Second--I have two daughters- one 7 and one 4; I got lucky-- my
biological clock did not quit on me when I neared my forties. I would
never say that it is ever easy having kids and being an academic
scientist. Don't fool yourselves-- it's not easy-- BUT IT's NOT
IMPOSSIBLE. It takes alot of planning and a hell of a lot of
cooperation from your spouse.
Third-- There are trade-offs. I certainly don't do "high-powered
science"-- I will never be a Hughes fellow, and I certainly don't
publish every other week in Nature, Science, or Cell. On the other
hand, I think my work is reasonably well known and there is some
respect out there for what we've done. I feel good about it. I have
also pretty consistently been able to obtain funding and I find science
is alot of fun. BK (before kids), I worked every weekend and many
evenings-- now I don't because I want to spend the time with my kids.
I have been fortunate to have some great, hardworking and nice people
in my lab. I cannot do what I do without alot of hands to help get the
work done and a VERY understanding spouse. I guess it all depends on
what you call "high-powered".
Bottom line: we have not gone backwards. On the other hand, I don't
think we've gone forwards (maybe just an incremental bit, because there
is alot more awareness these days of the necessity for child care-
daycare and after school care.) Maybe we are mostly marching in place.
Rae Nishi, PhD
Dept. Cell & Developmental Biology
Oregon Health Sciences University
In article <35DF0436.B450FF21 at salk.edu>
S L Forsburg <nospam*forsburg at salk.edu> writes:
> As she pointed out, the generation preceding us (women who
> now have tenure and are around 50) had a much better shot
> at getting that first grant and getting on their feet scientifically.
> I get the feeling, observing my male colleagues,
> that 15-20 years ago, a bright new assistant professor with a solid
> pedigree pretty much stepped right into a grant; getting the job might
> still have been hard but once you were in, you were given the chance to
> get going.
> Academic life is notoriously flexible, making a
> family/career mix more feasible than elsewhere, and a lot of that
> generation of women managed to combine family and excellent science.
> Now, however, it can take years to get that first grant and the
> tension level is accordingly higher and the fear of failure greater.
> Most junior PIs I know (men and women) have not gotten that first R01
> straight away--it has taken years. Most start their jobs now in their
> mid-late 30s.
> I also have to say that most of the senior faculty
> I know don't really "get it"--they realize on one level that things
> are tougher, but on another level, they don't understand why we juniors
> aren't managing the way THEY did, because, after all, they could do
> it so why can't we? I have numerous examples of this attitude mostly
> from people who were tenured before 40.
> The colleague I spoke to about this commented that with things as tenuous
> as they are funding-wise, taking the time to have a child (or
> do other meaningful life-things) is increasingly incompatible with
> a high-power science career. She pointed out that after years
> of struggle she is just now on her feet and can't afford to risk it
> right now for a family. Coupled with the longer PhDs and postdocs,
> this means the biological clocks will tick right out even before you come
> up for tenure.
> So, the question is this: have we really gone backwards in this regard?
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