The Evolution of Women in Academia

Two months ago, I wrote about Teri Markow resigning as President of the Society for the Study of Evolution in protest of the appointment of the new Editor in Chief. Long story short, Markow was unhappy that women were not considered for the editorship of the Society’s journal, Evolution. Don Waller, the current president of the Society, and Sally Otto, Vice-president and Associate Editor of Evolution, have both published letters to Nature (available here and here) in which they take issue with the journal’s coverage of Markow’s resignation. Waller points out that the Society actively recruited women for its Editor in Chief position:

It is true that we have had only one female editor-in-chief. However, five women were approached about their interest in the position before Mark Rausher was appointed, and all declined. The selection process involved a committee of six instead of three as stipulated in our by-laws, but this widened input and involved more women — including Theresa Markow. She raised no procedural issues until after the new editor-in-chief had been selected, agreed to serve and started to appoint other editors. The officers and council responded promptly to these issues in early 2006, but voted to approve the new editors rather than repeat the search.

Markow’s resignation is beginning to look rather foolish if this is the case. Not only were women given the opportunity to serve as Editor in Chief, Markow had no objections to the hiring process while it was going on. Otto suggests some reasons as to why women were turning down the offers:

In the face of the many obstacles to women in science, those of us who have established successful research careers have done so by learning to say “no”. The task of editor-in-chief is onerous, time-consuming and largely thankless. Potential candidates recognize that saying “yes” to this particular job comes at an enormous personal cost — to one’s research career, students and family.

Incidentally, the Society for the Study of Evolution’s annual meeting kicks off this weekend. Mike and I will be there, will you? Give a holler in the comments.


  1. #1 Frumious B.
    June 20, 2006

    back in the dawn of time when I was an undergrad at Stony Brook, I learned that Dusa McDuff in the mathematics department gets the occasional job solicitation. Prof. McDuff is well established at Stony Brook and has no reason to consider leaving. Her solicitors know this. By attempting to recruit her, they satisfy the need to offer a position to woman with no actual fear of her accepting it. When I read statements like “the Society actively recruited women,” I just think back to Dusa.

  2. #2 Ricardo Azevedo
    June 20, 2006

    Not this time — going to the Prague Evo-Devo meeting instead. But maybe next year we should organize a session on evolution blogging. PZ could be the keynote speaker… Speaking of which, I should start raising the money for that trip to NZ!

  3. #3 razib
    June 20, 2006

    RPM, i’m disappointed that you would repeat the assertions of anti-feminists. what we need to do is move forward rather than second-guessing the progress we’re making in science in regards to inclusivity.

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