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Women in Physics

by 123PleasentSt
Tags: physics, women
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f95toli
#19
Jan7-13, 07:02 AM
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Quote Quote by 123PleasentSt View Post
If someone were to drop their postdoc to fight cancer, nobody would consider that fact when they get cured and want another position years later? "Oh you had cancer? Sorry, you've been out too long. I hear McDonald's is hiring though"
It depends. In order to get funding you need to have a good track-record in terms of publishing. You also need to have a good network of potential collaborators (since most "serious funding" tends to go to collaborations, not a single individual).
Both of these, publising papers and networking, is difficult if you can't work, regardless of the circumstances or the reason.
Whether or not the funding agency takes into acount personal circumstances that might explain a "bad" track record varies, but I think the general answer (at least in Europe) is that they don't since proposals are mainly ranked based on grades from referees which (at least in theory) won't have any information about your personal life.

Things get a bit easier once you have a permanent position. However, unless you manage to bring in external money you could still end up in a situation where you don't have enough resources to do research (experimental work in particular is expensive) and the university/institute tells you that you now have to spend almost all your time teaching or doing admin, which is in effect a career killer if your goal is to do research.

And yes, academia is quite ruthless.
123PleasentSt
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Jan7-13, 09:12 AM
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Thanks Rooted :)
TMFKAN64
#21
Jan7-13, 11:38 AM
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Quote Quote by 123PleasentSt View Post
If someone were to drop their postdoc to fight cancer, nobody would consider that fact when they get cured and want another position years later? "Oh you had cancer? Sorry, you've been out too long. I hear McDonald's is hiring though"
Everyone would be very sympathetic. But whether we are discussing academia or industry, no one really cares about difficulties in your private life... the only concern is what have you done and what are you likely to do if you get hired. Results are all that matter. No one hires anyone because the person had some bad breaks and deserves a second chance.
123PleasentSt
#22
Jan7-13, 12:39 PM
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Quote Quote by TMFKAN64 View Post
No one hires anyone because the person had some bad breaks and deserves a second chance.
You make an excellent point. People don't get hired for personal reasons. But does that also mean their career is forever destroyed? For athletes, this may be the case. We've seen it happen when soneone breaks a leg or had a serious concussion. But athletes and physicists.... their work is so different. Where's the fine line drawn for physicists, I guess?
123PleasentSt
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Jan7-13, 12:47 PM
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I appreciate everyone's time to make a feedback.
f95toli
#24
Jan7-13, 02:40 PM
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Quote Quote by 123PleasentSt View Post
But athletes and physicists.... their work is so different.
But there are many similarities. At least you get a long career if you actually manage to get a permanent job as a physicist

I have a couple of friends who are professional dancers/choreographers and their lives are not THAT different from that of a scientist from a career point of view.
123PleasentSt
#25
Jan7-13, 06:22 PM
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Really...? I have a friend who's an excellent breakdancer for many years now. Sure it's not her career, but I can't see the similarities that an expert breakdancer has with a physicist.
ParticleGrl
#26
Jan7-13, 06:29 PM
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It certainly seems that getting a science job is difficult for most people in most areas and the work is hard, but I think from my experience that is probably true of any professional job. I'm not sure a career in physics specifically is any different.
This isn't true- many (probably most) other professional careers don't require a phd, or postdocs, and have a much lower attrition rate.

As an anecdote, physicists with several years of experience and good publication records apply to dozens of postdocs or more. As a statistician with less than 6 months experience and a limited track record, I started getting calls from recruiters and unsolicited job offers. I've had a steady stream of job offers since. Its a totally different experience, night and day.

I have a friend who's an excellent breakdancer for many years now. Sure it's not her career, but I can't see the similarities that an expert breakdancer has with a physicist.
Dancing and physics are both fun, and so people will do the jobs for cheap and the fields become very crowded with people willing to work for less than average. It becomes a race to the bottom of the pay scale/benefits scale.
123PleasentSt
#27
Jan7-13, 06:57 PM
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Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
Dancing and physics are both fun, and so people will do the jobs for cheap and the fields become very crowded with people willing to work for less than average. It becomes a race to the bottom of the pay scale/benefits scale.
This doesn't explain why not all careers that people would find fun have a difficult chance to find a long term posItIton to establish the career. Not all fun careers have people acceptIng as lIttle as they can to chase theIr career goals. Fun careers like nursing or engineering.
TMFKAN64
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Jan8-13, 02:35 AM
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Quote Quote by 123PleasentSt View Post
Fun careers like nursing or engineering.
Supply is only one half of the question.

The other half is demand.

There is a large need for nurses to take care of the sick and engineers to design and build things. I wouldn't say there is zero need for physicists... but it's a *much* smaller number.
f95toli
#29
Jan8-13, 04:33 AM
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Quote Quote by 123PleasentSt View Post
Really...? I have a friend who's an excellent breakdancer for many years now. Sure it's not her career, but I can't see the similarities that an expert breakdancer has with a physicist.
Well, my friends have to do a lot of travelling (because they compete on an international market and have to go where there is work), they mainly work short term contracts since there are few permanent positions. They also spend a lot of time looking for money to fund the next project.There is a lot of competition since there are a lot more people going into dance than there are jobs, and "disappearing" for a couple of years because you want to start a family is not an option

Also, they in turn have friends who had to give up their career relatively late in their lifes (mid- to late twenties) to start a new career. Some of them went into teaching.
Note that the people I know are ballet dancers or into modern dance (i.e. "arty" stuff)).

Note that I wrote "similarities", dancing is much more competitive than physics, their careers are even in the best case short, and they never get a decent salary, so it is a much harder career than physics.

However, when considering a career in research it is probably good to realize that a career in academic research in many ways similar to being a dancer, professional athlete, author or some other career where they are many more people that are passionate of their work than there are actual jobs.
Rooted
#30
Jan8-13, 05:51 AM
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Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
This isn't true- many (probably most) other professional careers don't require a phd, or postdocs, and have a much lower attrition rate.
It is true a phd isn't needed for every professional job - that is probably more important for people going into a research field - but there are plenty of careers where further professional qualifications are required, although they may not require 4 years work. Also for example I am friends with several biology and chemistry post-docs who have had a very hard time finding work over the past 10 years, some having to follow a job abroad or having to career change. This particular issue is not really physics specific. Maybe it is a sign of the reduced funds available for scientific research during difficult financial times.

I think f95toli has hit the nail on the head - supply and demand. The fewer jobs there are available must drive up the quality of applicants and make people easier (and cheaper) to replace if they don't produce good results.
Locrian
#31
Jan8-13, 08:20 AM
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Quote Quote by Rooted View Post
Also for example I am friends with several biology and chemistry post-docs who have had a very hard time finding work over the past 10 years,
Those aren't "professional careers" (see your quote).
elkement
#32
Jan8-13, 08:43 AM
P: 120
Hi 123PleasentSt,
Quote Quote by 123PleasentSt View Post
Any women out there with a PhD in physics?
I am and I had finally decided against an academic career and turned to IT. Now I run a small company together with my husband whom I met during my undergraduate studies (we also worked towards our PhDs at the same university institute).

Our decision was based on the uncertainty of concatenated postdoc contracts and working in different countries.

There is one caveat I want to mention: In addition to artists already mentioned in the thread more and more classical corporate jobs are turned to 'global working nomad jobs'. At least in IT it is not uncommon now to be employed by a large corporation, but nonetheless being 'based' in your 'home office' or travel the globe all the time.
Some time ago IBM has e.g. publicly announced they consider to lay off the majority of their global services staff and hire them again as self-employed contractors.

Of course this is paid much better that postdocing or creative jobs, but I feel that corporations try to utilize all the benefits of the global competition among potential contractors.

I do not feel that this is 'women's problem', as I see an increasing number of young male colleagues who opt for paternity leave, 'follow their wife', and rather ask an employer for flexible work options than for classical career opportunities. But this might be a European thing.
ParticleGrl
#33
Jan8-13, 08:42 PM
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I do not feel that this is 'women's problem', as I see an increasing number of young male colleagues who opt for paternity leave, 'follow their wife', and rather ask an employer for flexible work options than for classical career opportunities. But this might be a European thing.
Almost certainly a Europe thing, in the US there is no protected maternity leave, let alone paternity leave! The problem in a lot of US postdocs is without protected maternity leave, if you have a difficult pregnancy you can miss too much work- even if you go back to work immediately after giving birth.
George Jones
#34
Jan8-13, 09:57 PM
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Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
Almost certainly a Europe thing, in the US there is no protected maternity leave, let alone paternity leave! The problem in a lot of US postdocs is without protected maternity leave, if you have a difficult pregnancy you can miss too much work- even if you go back to work immediately after giving birth.
Maternity leave, at least, seems to be is more of a non-US thing than a Europe thing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave

In Canada, we get a year of combined parental leave.
123PleasentSt
#35
Jan8-13, 11:30 PM
P: 33
Thanks elkement. I've never really heard of any men personally who asked their work a few days off for a baby, but at the same time I don't have any older friends who have completed college and starting families. So I couldn't comment if it's really a Euro thing or not. But it's an interesting thought of not only a woman with a PhD in physics, but also from overseas. Thank you again
As for IT... ah man... my family is big in it. My mother has been in IT for almost 20 years. my grandfather has been in for even longer than that. I think since the 70's. Nobody in my family has had to travel, but they LOVE working from home! Haha.. I've never worked for IT, but I've heard the ups and downs of being a contractor. I think my mom prefers to be a contractor because she's never asked her current employer to make her into an official staff member, yet they've been renewing her contract for years. I know gpa does because he went out of his way to make his own company so he can contract HIMSELF lol. I think it's a personal preference whether someone wants to be a contractor or a full staff member.
123PleasentSt
#36
Jan9-13, 12:59 AM
P: 33
George Jones, thanks for the link. I thought the maternal leave issue was quite common, but now I know it's my country vs. the rest of the world.
Wow.


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