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Re. Abused junior scientists.

S L Forsburg nospamforsburg at salk.edu
Mon Jul 12 11:38:26 EST 1999

Linnea and Peter make extremely valid comments. 
 Linnea Ista <lkista at unm.edu> wrote

> I am sure, however, that there were post docs and grad students around you
> that dealt with the "little" things that built up. Lack of credibility
> because you have two X chromosomes (aka as "proving you can handle the
> job or "Jane's having problems with her experiments because she is not
> working hard enough/not capable of solving the problem/inept" while "Joe
> is having problems with his experiment because it is a really hard thing
> he is trying to do), people assuming that since you are female, you MUST
> be the tech or receptionist (my personal favorite), utter crap from men
> who come from cultures that value women even less than we do here.....
> .......(snip).....

> Or looking for a job and people assuming that since you ARE female you
> WILL be reproducing at some point, and, therefore will be less "reliable"
> than your male peers.......

> I will bet this sort of crap was going on all around you, but the most
> OBVIOUS thing was pregnancy discrimination.
> If that were the MAIN source of our problems, we would not have nearly as
> many problems. Most of us are pregnant at MOST 3 times in our lives. We
> are women everyday.

Thanks, Linnea! 
This topic has come up here before.  While none of us denies that family 
issues are very important, there is a dangerous tendency to assume
that they are the only issues affecting women scientists and this 
engenders complacency ("oh we've dealt with maternity leave so there's
no problem now.")  Well, guess what?  Those of us who don't have and 
don't intend to have kids are hardly free from discriminatory behavior.
 Materinity can be used as an excuse  (eg, the infamous "mommy 
track") to marginalize women, whether or not they are pregnant--but the
problem isn't pregnancy, it's being female.

Peter Prevelige (prevelig at uab.edu) wrote
> I am a bit concerned that anecdotes, gleaned from the internet, under
> the subject line of "Abused junior scientists" for a magazine
> targetted at a lay audience, may lead to an article with a very
> biased perspective.

Yes, I concur here.  It's easy to collect horror stories from the
net, but much more difficult to put them in perspective or get a
sense of numbers.  

In my experience, the general
public has no sense of how science happens, in part because
the media prefers to show them the culminating discovery of one
person rather  than the years of hard work by many people 
that go into it.    Maybe John should
consider that as a story.  Maybe he should think of telling
the country how people become scientists;  how they are willing
to be paid $20,000 with a PhD from a top institution and
work an 80 hour week in the lab just for
the 1:100 chance of getting a faculty position by the time they're
35. This is a demanding 
and competitive profession where things can change from one day 
to another with publication of a new paper in a journal or
an unexpected result.  But that's got far less drama.  And you know
what?  The
public really doesn't care.  

And of course, if John does write his story about pregnancy issues,
then a large portion of the population will just say, "well,
then women shouldn't be scientists."  

Or am I a cynic?

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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 

Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
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