Academic Skills WorkshopAcademic Women Scientists And Dual Career CouplesBalancing career andfamily Deborah C. Rubin, M.D. Washington University School of Medicine
Women in Science • Women in math, engineering and science: Drawing on our country's entire talent pool February 12, 2005 • The following opinion piece by the presidents of MIT, Princeton and Stanford appeared in the Boston Globe on February 12, 2005. • BY JOHN HENNESSY, SUSAN HOCKFIELD AND SHIRLEY TILGHMAN • Harvard President Lawrence Summers' recent comments about possible causes of the under-representation of women in science and engineering have generated extensive debate and discussion-much of which has had the untoward effect of shifting the focus of the debate to history rather than to the future.
Women in Science • The question we must ask as a society is not "can women excel in math, science and engineering?"--Marie Curie exploded that myth a century ago--but "how can we encourage more women with exceptional abilities to pursue careers in these fields?" Extensive research on the abilities and representation of males and females in science and mathematics has identified the need to address important cultural and societal factors. Speculation that "innate differences" may be a significant cause of under-representation by women in science and engineering may rejuvenate old myths and reinforce negative stereotypes and biases.
Women in Science • Can Harvard Ever Play a Positive Role for Women in Higher Education? • Myra H. Strober PhD '69 Some 40 years ago, when I was applying to graduate schools for a Ph.D. in economics, I had an interview with a prominent Harvard University professor. Not more than two minutes into the interview, he asked me, "Are you normal?" "What do you mean?" I asked, puzzled. "Well, do you want to get married and have a child?" "I'm already married." "Well then, why would you want a Ph.D.?" I don't remember much of what he said after that. I left feeling deflated and distressed. Although I applied to Harvard anyway, I was not surprised when a curt rejection letter appeared some months later. Happily, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had a quite different reaction to my application. It not only accepted me, but also provided me with a full fellowship
Women in Science • In my time as a student at MIT, I felt the lack of female companionship and advice, but never any discrimination, either from professors or from fellow students. And when it came time to find a faculty position, I got the same careful career counseling as all the other students. I've gone on to have both a family and a productive and satisfying academic career at Stanford University.
Women in Science • When I read that, at a recent conference on women and science, the current president of Harvard, Lawrence H. Summers, said that perhaps the dearth of women in science careers is explained by gender differences in math ability as well as by women's unwillingness to combine family with a demanding academic career, I thought back to his former colleague in the economics department whose comments had had such a chilling effect on me. How, I wondered, do female students at Harvard feel knowing that the leader of their institution sees them as lesser? And does Harvard still think that it is "abnormal" for women to want families and high-powered careers?
Women in Science • But the remarks of my interviewer and those of Mr. Summers differ significantly -- and not just because one spoke in private as an individual professor and the other in public, representing his institution. My interviewer 40 years ago was prejudiced, but not ill informed. His comments to me were made well before the burst of psychological and sociological studies that show that gender differences in performance on mathematics tests and women's achievements in highly male environments are greatly influenced by social factors, and that discrimination has ill effects on both aspirations and performance. Mr. Summers could and should have been better informed than my bygone interrogator.
Women in Science • In this day and age, it should be impossible for a leader of one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning to achieve that position without a clear understanding of the importance of social influences on women's aspirations and achievements. The Harvard community needs to ask itself some hard questions about its presidential-selection process. How did someone so ignorant of key findings concerning women in higher education become president? Was the selection process flawed, resulting in a failure to examine candidates' views about women? Were all candidates asked about their understanding of the reasons for the dearth of female faculty members, particularly in the hard sciences, and about the strategies they would use to increase their numbers? Were all of them asked to meet and talk seriously with faculty women, particularly in the sciences?
Women in Science • In thinking of Mr. Summers's remarks, I find it impossible not to contrast him with Charles M. Vest, MIT's most recent past president. In 1999, when faculty members at MIT sent a report to Mr. Vest showing how that university seriously disadvantaged its tenured female professors, he publicly admitted that MIT discriminated against women (yes, he actually used the D word), and promised to work hard to level the playing field. He didn't say that women couldn't hack the research-university schedule, or that they scored lower on math tests. Instead, he called a meeting of presidents of eight other elite universities, as well as a few senior women from those institutions, to examine how each institution might set in motion a process to increase the number of senior women in science on their faculties and ensure their fair treatment. I was at that meeting, and Mr. Vest's leadership, both practical and symbolic, was obvious throughout.
Women in Science • Not only did Mr. Vest put MIT at the forefront of the fight to increase the number of female faculty members in science and engineering and to ensure their fair treatment, but MIT's board of trustees also chose a female scientist, Susan Hockfield, to succeed Mr. Vest as the university's president. • Harvard and MIT are role models in higher education. In the same way that MIT has been a positive role model for women in science and engineering nationally, and indeed internationally, it is possible that Mr. Summers's remarks will have a negative effect. That is why his statement has created such a stir among female faculty members and administrators all over the world.
Women in Science • Mr. Summers reportedly was asked to be "provocative" at the conference. Will other college presidents seek to be equally "provocative," putting out their own poisonous sexism into the atmosphere? Will Mr. Summers's remarks lend credence to sexist speech? Will it become even more difficult for women who are already fighting an uphill battle for recognition of their talents? Will these women come to think that their fight is too difficult, or that they really are unworthy? We need every talented person possible to seek achievement in science and engineering. It would be sad, indeed, if Mr. Summers's remarks served to dissuade and discourage women or gave succor to those who wish to ensure their failure.
Faculty Composition at WUMS(2003) • Faculty composed of 27% women (for at least a decade, proportion of WUMS grads who are women is 50%) • 74% of women faculty rank at or below assistant prof, vs. 48% of men • Ten percent of full professors are women, representing 8% of women faculty members compared to 29% of men.
Faculty Composition of WUMS2003- Clinician track Female Male
What are the obstacles for women scientists and dual career couples? • Balancing family and career • Maximal productivity required during child-raising years • Lack of mentorship • Persistent (albeit less obvious) gender discrimination Academic Medicine 2004:79:319
What are the obstacles for academic women scientists? • Difficulties in combining career with childbearing and family life • Lack of compelling role models • Women receive little encouragement • Perception by women that they will have to be better than their male counterparts to be considered equal. NC Andrews Nature Medicine 8:439-441, 2002
MIT Self Study • Marginalization • Isolation resulting from small numbers of women faculty • Residual effects of past inequities, particularly around salary and access to resources • Greater family responsibilities Status of Women Faculty at MIT web.mit.edu/faculty/reports/overview.html
MIT Self Study • Marginalization • Cumulative and deleterious effects on a faculty member’s productivity • Exclusion from participation in group grants • Exclusion from thesis committees • Lack of influence in decision making, even when included on committees (important decisions are made outside of the committee structure)
MIT Self Study • Residual effects of past inequities, particularly around salary and access to resources • Women’s salaries started lower, were given larger “jumps” to make up for inequality, still losing cumulative benefits. • Start-up packages, lab size, other resources significantly smaller
Balancing Family and Career • So what’s the problem? • So many “hats” to wear • Results are stress, exhaustion and guilt • Family – children, spouse/partner, extended family • Work – highly demanding of time and energy • Home – running the household • Community responsibilities • Coping “tools” are required
Balancing family and career • The beginning: • When should we start a family? What is the “best” time
Balancing family and career **A SAMPLE TIMELINE** • Married after first year of medical school • Pregnant with first child during first year of GI fellowship; delivered in August of second year of fellowship. • Pregnant with second child during fourth year of fellowship (in research lab) • Tenure clock started 6 months before birth of second child
Balancing family and career • There is no “best time” for beginning a family – there are pros and cons for each possibility: • During residency or grad school • During fellowship or post-doc • After fellowship • It is most important to carefully consider what is best for you and your significant other, and then go ahead!
Balancing family and career • Child Care • Consider carefully what is best for your life style and children’s ages • Nanny vs. day care • Use available services to help you with hiring • Background checks, monitoring • Word of mouth is worth a lot • Try to get involved in the community • Great resources and source of support • Remember that needs change as children get older • Socialization, driving to activities, drop off and pick up from school, etc
Balancing Family and Career • Resources • http://pathbox.wustl.edu/~awn/awntop/handbook.html • Family Resource Handbook • Table of Contents • Chapter 1: Choosing Child Care • Section 1 – Overview Page 5 • Section 2 - Internet Resources Page 5 • Section 3 - Agencies for In-Home Well and Sick Child Care Page 7 For Profit Nanny Finding Agencies Page 7 • In-Home Child Care Resources Provided by Area College Students Page 8 • Section 4- Childcare at Washington University Page 9 • Section 5- Questions to Ask Child Care Centers Page 10
Balancing Family and Career:Resources • Chapter 2: Resources for expectant and new parents • Chapter 3: Resources for older children • Chapter 4: Summer camps and activities for children • Chapter 5: Family fun in St. Louis • Chapter 9: Resources for elderly care • Chapter 10: Resources for the Washington U Community
How can we deal with the obstacles? • Personal • Don’t be afraid to seek help • Identify a mentor with experience in this arena • Hone your organizational skills • Simplify your daily life and routines • Use available resources • At university • Community • National
How can we deal with the obstacles? • Personal • Don’t be afraid to seek help • With children • With housework • Share with spouse/significant other • Extended family
Personal • Identify a mentor with experience in this arena • Can be separate from your primary academic mentor – the more the merrier • Seek help from national organizations • American Gastroenterological Association, American Physiological Society have mentorship programs
Personal • Hone your organizational skills • Keep schedules with you at all times • Plan ahead for major stress periods at work (e.g. grant and other deadlines, presentations. This is difficult to do but critically important • Set up a good work space at home • Develop a standard routine for creating and dealing with your “to-do” list
Personal: • Simplify your daily life and routines • Can you live close to work? Eliminate long and stressful driving times • Seek day care with flexible hours • Get help with driving to activities • Use health care professionals with weekend or evening hours if possible
Family and Career: how to balance? • Choose the right partner (!) • Choose your parents with care • High energy, sense of humor, flexibility, problem solving ability • Choose the nanny/day care with great care • Compromise • Compartmentalize CJ Kestenbaum J Am Acad Psycho and Dyn Psych 32:117, 2004
Compromise • Maybe not the best time to serve on lots of committees • Learn to say no • Limit out of town travel • Focus on what you must accomplish to succeed. Don’t get side-tracked. Prioritize.
Compartmentalize: • Divide work time and home time with little overlap. • Guarantee your children set times when you will be home; they know what to expect and that their needs are your highest priority • Give each child some individual time Arvin, A. Stanford Report 2001 CJ Kestenbaum J Am Acad Psycho and Dyn Psych 32:117, 2004
Avoid guilt • “…employed mothers today seek ways to maximize time with their children. Within marriages, fathers are spending more time with their children than in the past, thus increasing the total time children spend with a parent even as the mother spends more time away from home. Bianchi SM Demography 37:404, 2000
How to address the inequities: 1. Institutional • Choose a supportive environment • Presence of other role models • Explore tenure track/promotion guidelines • MIT example – semester’s paid leave from administrative and teaching duties, delay in tenure decision, Harvard Med School grants. • WUMS example - Tenure track changes under consideration at WUMS, Gender Equity Committee has been formed and meets regularly, Academic Women’s Network, Office for Faculty Affairs.
How to address the inequities and social pressures • “View the issues broadly” • “Selectively helping young women will only serve to reinforce traditional roles if it provides no incentive or opportunity for young men to be involved in parenting. It is not hard to find men who would like to take on an equal share of the responsibility for having and raising children” • NC Andrews. Nature Medicine 8: 439-441
How to address the inequities and social pressures • “Many of the most successful women physician-scientists owe their success, at least in part, to enlightened partners who have made their own unrecognized and unrewarded career sacrifices – but there are few grants or tenure track adjustments for these men. Promotions committees should consider that male faculty members may have assumed an equal or greater amount of the responsibility….
How to address the inequities: 2. National efforts • Committees on women and gender equity in different specialty and research societies. • Mentorship programs • NIH – programs on women’s health research • Academic success workshops – junior and mid-career run by AAMC
Summary • A great deal of progress has been made in support of academic women scientists and dual-career couples. • More changes will be coming in the future, so don’t lose hope. • Remember, you are not alone!