[Paleopsych] NYT: For Women in Sciences, Slow Progress in Academia

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For Women in Sciences, Slow Progress in Academia
April 15, 2005

    By [1]SARA RIMER

    It has been 12 years since Nancy Hopkins, a senior professor of
    molecular biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was
    crawling around the floor of her laboratory with a tape measure,
    intent on proving to a male administrator that she had 1,500 square
    feet less laboratory space than her male counterparts.

    But the administrator ignored her data and refused to provide the 200
    square feet she needed to expand her cancer research.

    Since then, women in the sciences and in mathematics have made some
    highly visible gains. At M.I.T., Professor Hopkins, now 61, says that
    she and other senior female scientists have laboratories and salaries
    equivalent to those of their male colleagues. Female scientists now
    also lead M.I.T., the University of Michigan, Princeton, Rensselaer
    Polytechnic Institute and four campuses of the University of

    And yet, as was made clear after remarks by Harvard's president,
    Lawrence H. Summers, about whether women lag in science and
    engineering because of "intrinsic aptitude," their overall progress at
    many of the country's top research universities has been slow, the
    gains uneven and fragile.

    Even as the number of women earning Ph.D.'s in science has
    substantially increased - women now account for 45 percent to 50
    percent of the biology doctorates, and 33 percent of those in
    chemistry - the science and engineering faculties of elite research
    universities remain overwhelmingly male. And the majority of the women
    are clustered at the junior faculty rank.

    At Harvard, for example, there are 149 men with tenure in the natural
    sciences and just 13 women. Cynthia Friend, the chairwoman of the
    chemistry department, remains the only woman who has ever received
    tenure in chemistry at Harvard. (By comparison, women have done better
    in the humanities departments at Harvard, where 39 women and 98 men
    have tenure.)

    Nor is Harvard's record unusual. The faculties of most elite
    institutions are not only mostly male, they are also overwhelmingly
    white. According to a 2004 survey by Donna Nelson, a chemistry
    professor at the University of Oklahoma, there are 13,235 professors
    on physical sciences and engineering faculties of the 50 top research
    universities, and only 468 are black or Hispanic.

    Given the pipeline problems in some fields, as well as the glacial
    rate of faculty turnover in academia - tenured professors routinely
    hold their jobs for more than 30 years - the slow increase in the
    numbers of women is in part understandable, many experts say.

    But there are also vast differences in the efforts that some
    universities have made to move women along.

    Female scientists, and senior female professors in general, have been
    particularly concerned about Harvard's record in the past decade,
    including the last four years under Dr. Summers, with the number of
    tenure offers to women on the faculty of arts and sciences dropping to
    4 out of 32 last year from 14 out of 41 in the 1999-2000 academic

    After the firestorm surrounding his remarks, Dr. Summers appointed two
    study groups to advise Harvard on how to recruit and retain more
    women. When the panels announce their findings next month, their
    recommendations will draw heavily from the handful of universities
    that already have such programs in place, including the Universities
    of Michigan, Wisconsin and Washington; Princeton; Stanford; and M.I.T.

    Those campuses have instituted an array of programs, including
    workshops on unconscious bias, coaching women on how to negotiate for
    things like salaries, research funds and child-care money. (Such help
    is also available to men on faculties, but they generally bear much
    less of these domestic burdens.)

    Three years ago, the University of Michigan had 55 departments in the
    sciences and engineering, only one of them headed by a woman. Today,
    eight are headed by women. In that time, the university has also
    tripled the number of tenure track offers to women in science and
    engineering to 41 percent.

    Mel Hochster, a mathematics professor at Michigan, belongs to a
    committee of senior science professors that gives workshops for heads
    of departments and search committees highlighting the findings of
    numerous studies on sex bias in hiring. For example, men are given
    longer letters of recommendation than women, and their letters are
    more focused on relevant credentials. Men and women are more likely to
    vote to hire a male job applicant than a woman with an identical
    record. Women applying for a postdoctoral fellowship had to be 2.5
    times as productive to receive the same competence score as the
    average male applicant. When orchestras hold blind auditions, in which
    they cannot see the musician, 30 percent to 55 percent more women are

    Professor Hochster said he was not inclined to join the committee
    until Abigail Stewart, a professor of psychology and women's studies
    who is leading Michigan's effort, made a presentation on sex bias to
    his department.

    "I vastly underestimated the problem," Professor Hochster said.
    "People tend to think that if there's a problem, it's with a few
    old-fashioned people with old-fashioned ideas. That's not true.
    Everybody has unconscious gender bias. It shows up in every study."

    In the last three years, the mathematics department, regarded as one
    of the best in the country, has hired two women with tenure and
    promoted one associate professor to tenure, Professor Hochster said,
    bringing the number of tenured women to 6, out of a total of 64
    tenured and tenure-track professors. Two more women are on a tenure

    Some universities have put pressure on their search committees to
    broaden their pools of qualified candidates, especially when it comes
    to graduate students who could apply for junior faculty positions.

    Jo Handelsman, a professor of plant pathology who is leading
    Wisconsin's effort to recruit and retain more female science and
    engineering professors, said that at Wisconsin each member of a search
    committee was encouraged to come up with a list of 10 respected
    colleagues and graduate students around the country who would nominate
    qualified candidates, specifically qualified women and minorities. "If
    you have a committee of eight people and each one calls 10 colleagues,
    now you've got 80 people brainstorming," Professor Handelsman said.

    With widespread concern that only about half the pool of women earning
    Ph.D.'s in biology and chemistry are even applying for junior faculty
    jobs at elite research universities, M.I.T. and other institutions are
    going out of their way to find outstanding young women in unusual
    places and encourage them to apply.

    Catherine Drennan, 41, an associate chemistry professor at M.I.T.,
    said she might still be teaching high school chemistry in Iowa, as she
    used to, were it not for JoAnne Stubbe, a prominent molecular
    biologist at M.I.T.

    Professor Drennan was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan
    when she first met Professor Stubbe at a chemistry conference. She was
    stunned, Professor Drennan said, when Professor Stubbe later asked if
    she would be interested in applying to M.I.T. for a faculty job.

    "I had never thought of myself as someone that a school like that
    would be interested in," said Professor Drennan, who arrived at M.I.T.
    five and a half years ago. She is now being reviewed for tenure, and
    is expected to receive it.

    Some universities have also taken note of the disadvantage that women
    face in negotiating salaries, laboratory space and money for research,
    as well as the importance of building a reputation by publishing in
    high-profile academic journals and getting invitations to speak at
    prestigious conferences. Men have naturally picked up such crucial
    information, as well as speaking invitations, from male colleagues and
    mentors because of their greater numbers and influence. For example,
    Columbia University is now bringing in retired senior academics to
    coach women on its faculty in such areas.

    Professor Hopkins, who in January walked out of the academic
    conference where Mr. Summers made his controversial remarks about
    women in science, said she nearly lost out on a large grant years ago
    because she had been left out of the information loop by some of her
    male colleagues. After reading in a newspaper that a biotech company
    was awarding grants to M.I.T. scientists, she asked a colleague if he
    knew how to apply for the money, she said. He told her he knew nothing
    about the grant, she said, though she later learned that he was urging
    another man in their department to apply for the money.

    Professor Hopkins said she then went to her dean, who submitted her
    application to the company, asking for $30,000, The company gave her
    $8 million, which allowed her to expand her cancer research and led to
    the discovery of a pair of cancer genes.

    Experts say they believe one reason women may not be applying for
    junior faculty positions at elite research universities is that they
    believe - mistakenly, senior female scientists say - that these jobs
    are incompatible with having children.

    In a widely praised speech at Columbia three weeks ago, Princeton's
    president, Shirley M. Tilghman, a molecular biologist and mother of
    two, said that universities should do a great deal more to create an
    environment that "legitimizes the choice" to be a scientist and have a
    family. The first step, she said, "to paraphrase the political
    strategist James Carville, is to recognize, 'It's day care, stupid!' "

    Princeton, like many other universities, offers one-year tenure
    extensions for each child and workload relief to new parents, men and
    women. But Princeton found that men were more likely to take advantage
    of the tenure extension than women, who were afraid that requesting
    the extra year would be interpreted as a sign of weakness or lack of
    confidence. Princeton has recently made the tenure extension automatic
    so that it will have no value judgment attached to it, Dr. Tilghman


    1. http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=SARA%20RIMER&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=SARA%20RIMER&inline=nyt-per

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