From the September 15, 2006 AWIS Washington Wire
Women at Work-Striving for 25% Female Faculty
In 2000, the European Research Ministries set the goal that 25% of all faculty members would be female by the year 2010. Unfortunately, the numbers are likely to fall far short. To show what the visual impact of this proportion of women would be, Petra Rudolf, a professor and materials scientist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, convinced 35 of the university’s 50 female professors to show up at the opening ceremony of the new academic year. As a result of Rudolf’s planning pushed the gender ratio of those in gowns to more than a quarter. “The men seemed, shall we say, to feel the difference,” laughs Rudolf, “and they were not entirely comfortable.” But the men will have some time to get used to it. The university expects to increase female faculty from 10%, the Dutch average, to 15% by 2010. See News@Nature 443, 131 – 131 (14 Sep 2006) for more of the story.
Petra, baby, you so totally rock out loud! Can you believe the men were actually not comfortable just because they were suddenly, for one event, only 75% dominant instead of their usual 90% dominant? Sadly, yes, I can. And they call us the weaker sex. Bunch of timid turf-wardens. Hah!
Solving a Mystery of Life, Then Solving a Real Life Problem
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is one of the greatest biologists of the 20th Century. In the 1980’s, she and Dr. Eric R Wieschaus solved one of the central mysteries of life; how genes in the fertilized egg direct the formation of the embryo. In recognition of the importance of this discovery, Dr.Nüsslein-Volhard, Dr. Wieschaus and Dr. Edward Lewis were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995. Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard, one of only 10 women to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences, currently directs the Max Plank Institute for Developmental Biology. She has watched many brilliant young scientists leave science due to the strains of trying to balance a family and a successful career at the bench. Recently, with her own money and a grant from the Unesco-L’Oréal Women in Science Program, Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard has started the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard Foundation to provide money to help young woman scientists to hire the help they need to excel in all their roles. The full interview can be read here.
These two individuals stand in sharp contrast to Nobel Laureate Dr. Susumu Toadygawa, I mean Tonegawa, at MIT. Which reminds me that I have been promising to write a follow-up to my August post in the old blog on Rollins president Lewis M. Duncan, and so I suppose I will have to do that next.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education, September 19, 2006 (subscription required):
National Academies Panel Blames Biases for Women’s Underrepresentation in Science and Mathematics
Women are underrepresented in academic leadership positions in science and mathematics … because of biases, discrimination, and outdated institutional structures, according to a report issued on Monday by a panel convened by the National Academies.
The report, “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering,” says that despite making up an increasing proportion of science and engineering majors at all institutions, women continue to be a small portion of the faculty members in those fields at research universities. And they typically receive fewer resources and less support than their male colleagues, the report concludes.
Women are underrepresented in top positions in academe, professional societies, and honorary organizations not because of “a lack of talent,” the report says, but because of “unintentional biases and outmoded institutional structures that are hindering the access and advancement of women.” The report rejected the idea that the gap may be attributed to innate differences in ability, as proposed last year by then-President of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers. Mr. Summers’s suggestion sparked a wave of protest, eventually resulting in his resignation…[link added by Zuska]
…The panel … could find no evidence of “any significant biological differences between men and women in performing science and mathematics that can account for the lower representation of women,” …[and] blamed environments that favor men, continuous questioning of women’s abilities and commitment to an academic career, and a system that claims to reward based on merit but instead rewards traits such as assertiveness that are socially less acceptable for women to possess.
(Hmmm…”rewards traits such as assertiveness that are socially less acceptable for women to possess.” Do we know any women bloggers who have recently been severely chastised for their assertive behavior online? Would said female blogger have been treated the same if she were a man criticizing another man? I’m guessing if she’d been a man criticizing another woman, nobody would even have noticed. They just would have assumed the woman asked for it, I mean, deserved the criticism, I mean, was wrong. Lighten up. What’s the matter? You can’t take a joke? You have to learn to shrug these things off. You can’t let everything get to you. Why do you make such a big deal out of everything? You are so sensitive. Gosh, you can’t say anything without you getting all bent out of shape! Here we go again, with the “thought police”. If you want to be one of the girls, you have to learn to roll with the punches.)
The panel offered recommendations in the report for university personnel at all levels, from trustees, presidents, and provosts, to deans, department chairs, and tenured faculty. Professional organizations were also called upon to play a role, and federal agencies and Congress were asked to “enforce antidiscrimination laws at institutions of higher education”. (Ah, I can feel that Title IX tidal wave getting closer all the time!
The Chronicle also noted that you can purchase copies of the report in book form for $57.95 plus shipping via the Web site of the National Academies Press.