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why women leave the pipeline

Beth Shuster eoshuster at ucdavis.edu
Mon Jan 6 19:52:08 EST 1997

Alicia wrote:
>> Anyway, I think alot of things ARE shifting-----younger men do not
>> face
>> the same world as their fathers did. But it's still a different world
>> than their sisters face. And really, their sisters still have a much
>> tougher road to hoe. So I am four-square against the idea that they
>> should be called to task for leaving.

and Susan replied:
>Let me add once again that I have never taken anyone to task for
>leaving, I have merely (and I think, reasonably) pointed out
>that one person leaving has consequences for everyone, and we
>can't ignore that.
>Put simply, we can't all complain there are so few tenure track
>women faculty if no women apply for those positions.  Does it
>cost?  You betcha.  Is it worth it?  Only you can decide for
>yourself--but there are costs either way.  That's how life works.

  Just thought I'd slip a word (or so) in here - When I first told people
about my decision to be another leak in the pipeline, I was prepared for
negative reactions from other women (and men) for whom science was the main
priority.  One of these people was Susan, whom I met long before this
newsgroup got off the ground.  She, and a large number of others, including
my post-doctoral mentor (a female NAS member), surprised me by being very
supportive.  I in turn support (and admire!) their willingness to devote
the time and energy required to succeed in science.  One of the wonderful
things of science, and life, today is that women have many viable options!

  Susan is also correct that those of us who leak reduce the numbers of
women available to move up through the ranks.  One (of many) of my concerns
when making my decision was the ripple effect it would have on students who
considered me a role model.  Although I eventually decided that that
concern was not a sufficient justification for remaining in a situation I
was desperately unhappy with, I still regret the fact that at least one
woman (not from my lab) left grad school with an MS degree, citing my
situation as one of the reasons (the final straw) she chose not to complete
the PhD.  I am sure that there were other ripples of which I am unaware.
So, it does matter, and the more women moving up in science, the better for
all who follow - whether it is just a matter of not being the "lone female"
or of finally getting enough influential people (of either gender)
interested in participating in (and influencing) the debate over whether it
is possible to have a scientific culture which both generates excellent
science and is "family friendly".

  As others in this forum have noted, every decision has consequences, both
positive and negative.  Also realize (I think I finally have) that a career
may have many quite different stages.  As long as you consider the
potential ramifications as you are making "life decisions", and make a vow
to refrain from "if only ..." speculation afterwards (as much as humanly
possible ;-) ), you stand a much better chance of being happy.

my two cents before going back to work.


Beth Shuster
Univ. of California, Davis
eoshuster at ucdavis.edu

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