Equity v. parity

Rachelle Bienstock biensto1 at niehs.nih.gov
Thu Jul 27 13:17:33 EST 2000

I think that industry has done a far better job at providing women with
That is because companies have policies which are followed and have actively

supported "diversity", either on their own or due to Federal legislation.
In the
academic setting, so much is under the individual
control of department chairs and in particular labs under the rule of the
For example, companies will have a uniform maternity leave policy in place,
and if they have more than 50 employees must at least follow the Family and
Leave Act.  As well as a Human Resources department to ensure you get
what you are entitled.  However, if you are a postdoc or a research
professor at a university what kind of uniform maternity leave policy is in
What kind of recourse or resources do you have available?

Also, advancing in industry is much more dependent on what you produce
and not "face time".  You can work five days a week, 8 hours a day and as
long as you demonstrate that you produce for the company this is what
counts.  So much in academia is just showing that you were in the lab on
the weekend or at 5 am even if it was hanging around the coffee machine
eating donuts!  Or being in the "in crowd", knowing the "big name" people,
being invited to speak at conferences etc....Even if you give the same talk
everywhere you speak!  I think women are self-selecting out of academia
for two reasons, one because so much is based on the networking and
knowing people in academia and women aren't admitted into these little
close knit networks as easily, and two, because most women in science
don't have someone else helping them and supporting them the way most men
Even if unmarried, a woman are often the caretaker of an elderly parent or
if they have a "significant other" , this person is usually less
of the afterhours commitments of academia.  If they are married, the demands

of keeping up a household, children and a spouse often make the travel
and additional demands which being successful in an academic career require

> The new issue of SCIENCE has an article about the efforts of the NSF to
> support women in science. (Science 289, 21 July issue).  A sidebar in
> the article discusses the argument now arising amongst social scientists
> that fewer women choose science as a career because women prefer
> "people-oriented" professions rather than cold, hard theory.
> to me, this ignores the REAL issue, which is not the absolute number of
> women in science, but rather, whether they achieve equity to the men at
> equivalent positions.   That is, regardless of whether 20% of scientists
> are female, those 20% should be able to expect the same support,
> salaries, etc of the male scientists.  It's not parity of numbers, but
> equity of treatment, that is concern.
> Unless the nay-sayers  REALLY believe that women who choose to be
> scientists are simply  not as good as the men.  And that I simply refuse
> to believe.
> Comments?
> --
> -susan
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> S L Forsburg, PhD  Associate Professor
> Molecular Biology and Virology Lab
> The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA
> forsburg at salk.edu
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> Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
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