Sex discrimination for women in academia

  • #26
f95toli
Science Advisor
Gold Member
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"When I was the same age as my sister was when she had her first kid, I was interviewing for postdocs. One professor told me that if I were planning to have kids during the postdoc, I was just wasting his time and shouldn't bother taking the position. "

This is the kind of cr** you should not put up with. You should remind any such creep that he needs to make his decision based on the stated qualifications or else you will report him to the relevant authorities and then sue him for gender discrimiantion, but first, to paraphrase how one of my male friends put it in a similar situation, you will kick him in the b***s.
I agree.

However, it is worth keeping in mind that sometimes there IS a "rational" reason for this kind of behaviour (which does not excuse it). Most research projects run for about 3 years (at least here in Europe), and if you are lucky enough to get enough funding to hire a post-doc the last thing you want is for that post-doc to be absent for one of those years; especially if the idea is that the post-doc in question is going to be working with one of more PhD students and perhaps be responsible for a crucial part of the project (e.g. fabrication of samples).

The only long term solution to this is to make funding academia more flexible. This is already happening in some places (e.g. Sweden), mainly because men starts going on longer paternity leave (most men of my age or younger will spend at least a couple of months at home) which means that it doesn't really matter if you hire a man or a woman (although I've also heard of people who try to avoid hiring people who might want to have kids in the near future, i.e. by only hiring people who are single).
 
  • #27
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I thought that in math I had seen very little sex discrimination but one of my female friends said she felt very discriminated against. It so happens later I was in contact with a professor at a school where she had not been hired, although extremely well qualified. The professor told me they had not liked her response when asked what her spouse would do if they hired her. She had apparently offended their male chauvinism by responding that her spouse would follow her wherever she went.
Wow, that's just messed up. If I were you at that point I would have taken out a pad of paper and pen and told the guy professor to sit down on the couch and say "So...tell me about your mother?"
 
  • #28
335
14
However, it is worth keeping in mind that sometimes there IS a "rational" reason for this kind of behaviour (which does not excuse it). Most research projects run for about 3 years (at least here in Europe), and if you are lucky enough to get enough funding to hire a post-doc the last thing you want is for that post-doc to be absent for one of those years; especially if the idea is that the post-doc in question is going to be working with one of more PhD students and perhaps be responsible for a crucial part of the project (e.g. fabrication of samples).
Keep in mind that in the US, there isn't protected maternity leave. So the time missed wouldn't be anything like a full year, more like a few weeks when you have the child (if that). If you a postdoc/mother takes more time off, they can often be let go (depending on the benefits of the university in question).

This is already happening in some places (e.g. Sweden), mainly because men starts going on longer paternity leave
It will be along time in the US before women have legally protected maternity leave, and even longer before men have paternity leave!
 
  • #29
Bacle2
Science Advisor
1,089
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Many studies have been done on the subject. What they consistently show is that women are either being excluded or dropping out at every point in the process - while you might have the same number of women as men as undergrads, there are more men going to grad school, more men again in postdocs, and more men being hired as tenure-track faculty. Once in the tenure track, men are more likely to earn tenure, make more money in the same position, and have more access to resources (lab equipment and space, funding, graduate students) then women in the same positions. Here's a recent articles with some statistics.

http://chronicle.com/article/AAUP-Report-Blames-Colleges/8774/

Of course, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration, many of which are controlled for in these studies, but they can never cover all of them. For example, I saw a recent study which suggested women are not as motivated by money as men are. Personally, I know that's true for myself. I turned down a shot at an industry job to take a job in academia I wanted more, even though it only paid half as much. Having the job I wanted where I wanted it was much more of a reward for me than the size of the paycheck.
This guy Warren Farrell has done a lot of studies --by which I mean he has actual data and statistical analyses-- in this respect:

http://www.warrenfarrell.net/

He believes much, if not all, of the gender pay back can be explained by factors other than discrimination.
 

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