Interesting article

Pamela Norton pamela.norton at mail.tju.edu
Fri Sep 1 10:04:03 EST 2000


My comments are interspersed:

In article <200008301915.OAA28081 at mail.tamu.edu>, Julia Frugoli
<jfrugoli at bio.tamu.edu> wrote:

> >The Chronicle of higher education (www.chronicle.com) has a free article
> >at
> >http://chronicle.com/free/v46/i50/50a01201.htm
> >
> >entitled
> >Female Scientists Turn Their Backs on Jobs at Research  Universities:
> >Many say liberal-arts colleges provide a better place for women to
> >thrive
> >
> >I have mixed feelings about this;  i understand why many women make this
> >decision,
> >but I fear that things will never change and problems will never be
> >solved in the
> >bigshot places if women simply opt out of them.
> >
> >--
> >-susan
> 
> After reading the article, many things struck me.  One was that the author
> chose to refer to every female scientist as "Ms. So-and-So", instead of "Dr.
> So-and-So".  I couldn't imagine printing an article referring to a bunch of
> male professors as "Mr. So-and-So", thus right away I felt defensive.

I also found this a bit off-putting, but I looked at another article,
where male professors were indeed refered to as "Mr." - at least they
are consistent.
 
> The phenomenon being described is presented as a female phenomenon-women, as
> opposed to men, choosing smaller institutions for quality of life issues.  I
> know many men who have made the same choice. It just isn't noticeable in the
> numbers, since men have always been getting these jobs-the numbers can't
> tell whether the jobs were chosen or defaulted to.  So even the premise of
> the article makes me nervous.
> 
> While I certainly couldn't imagine nursing your baby during faculty meetings
> at most research institutions (used by one woman as an example of how
> supportive her small department was), I don't think it's fair to use Harvard
> and MIT as the prototypical research universities.  There are plenty of
> research universities that provide good opportunities for research with
> light teaching loads, without demanding several multimillion dollar grants
> and 4 papers a year.  I know Harvard has a reputation for eating young
> professors alive, male or female.  But that doesn't mean every research
> institution demands choosing between a career and a family.  And the older I
> get, the more I think that there's a personality component to this too-some
> people stress themselves beyond what the career demands, just because that's
> they way they are, or because they don't make wise choices.  I don't want to
> say it's easy to balance it all, but sometimes I see people making it harder
> than it has to be.

This is true, but much of the unfriendly environment typical of
research institutions is kind of built into the system. The faculty are
literally competing with each other for resources, money, promotions,
etc. Harvard's reputation is earned, as junior faculty know that only a
very few will obtain tenure there. The members of the faculty at
research institutions do not share common goals, but must put their own
needs ahead. My impression is that the competitive pressure is less
severe at teaching institutions, as the teaching focus unites members,
at least within a department. This view might be naive on my part,
though, as I have had limited exposure to this kind of environment. (I
should be learning, however, as I am now in a rather unique situation -
on the faculty of research (medical) school, but based in a Research
Center located on the campus of an undergraduate institution. But I
will leave this to another post.) Supposedly, women favor a more
collaborative style of working; perhaps the latter environment is thus
more amenable than the former. 
> 
> Like Susan, I fear that things will never change if women self select out of
> research institutions, and I while I think we need to have our eyes wide
> open, we don't need to scare people who value balance away.

Excellent points by both posters. Perhaps some good will out in the
long term, with more undergraduates being taught by women scientists.
Unfortunately, I am pessimistic about seeing much change in the
research science atmosphere any time soon. 

Pam

--
Pamela A. Norton, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor of Biochemistry
   and Molecular Pharmacology
Jefferson Center for Biomedical Research
Thomas Jefferson University
pamela.norton at mail.tju.edu 

> Julia Frugoli
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Biological Sciences
> Clemson University
> 132 Long Hall
> Clemson, SC 29634
> phone: 864-656-1859
> email: jfrugol at clemson.edu
> 
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