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choices, more

SLF nospam at salk.edu
Tue May 2 02:53:09 EST 2000

Wow, go away for a few days and return to See What I Hath Wrought.  At least we are seeing some traffic!

The point of my original post wasn't  to diss those who have kids or not, but to caution against using the family issue as The Defining Problem for women in science.
It's not.  First, family friendly policies are necessary for both men and women (many of the men I know want to be active parents too).  Second,  to define a woman's
experience in science by whether or not she has kids is wrong.  Trust me, not having kids does not solve our problems in this profession.  the danger is, that it
offers an excuse.  "She doesn't have kids, so of course there's no problem" is an attitude even well-meaning people up the hierarchy will express. They just Don't Get

Julia Frugoli wrote

> >I have control of some things and not others. IMHO, the angst and anger
> >comes when we feel we have NO choices-that we have to be a certain way in
> >order to survive. While that may be true of science, remember that we all
> >define "survive" and even there we have a choice. If I constantly am unhappy
> >with my choices, I can change the choices easier than I can change the
> >world. That being said, constantly being unhappy with one's choices can be
> >a great impetus to changing the world :).

I'm not willing (yet!)  to give up what I want , which is to survive doing science, and enjoy it.  I just think science should be a big enough tent to allow me a
weekend off now and again.

As I constantly harp to you all, you have to get into the system to change it.  I hope women will choose to get in.   being realists, we have to be aware of the costs
of each choice, and they do cost.  And we also have to respect those who have chosen differently.

and Donna wrote:

> Everyone makes choices, I think the issue is what choices should anyone have to make in order to pursue a career. If the professionals in a career as a whole seem to
> believe that the career is the most important thing in life, and limit choices for those who may believe differently, those people who want to have different
> priorities will be forced out of that career. ......

I do think that that's what we're seeing now.   Many women are more likely to say "heck with it" and move out, especially out of the academy  (hence no doubt the
strong women in biotech).  that of course cedes the academy to the perpetuators of antisocial behaviors that are the problem.  Not really clear how to overturn the

> Any organization ought to provide the equipment and support that  everyone needs in order to do their job within somewhat normal hours, or else provide incentives to
> those who take those hours rather than them seeing it as some kind of punishment.

But how?  As Donna points out, the computer profession isn't doing this, and neither is science.  And perceptions, in our human world, DO matter, which means it
matters that people are seen to be working hard, given the macho science ethos that we have. Moreover, I have known PIs who tell their labs, "if you don't want to work
hard, I iwll find someone who will".  There are lots of horror stories of PIs taking advantage of postdocs and students, and foreign postdocs in particular can be
vulnerable to abuse, since they have no recourse.  everyone knows, but no one does anything, because all the universities care about is the high profile of the PI,
regardless of the damage he did to get there.

I'm not defending this, mind, just observing it.  It's not how I run my lab.  But as I have also commented here, there is no reward for doing it right, except the (I
hope) appreciation of your students if you live long enough!  ;-)

>  I agree, it is not about whose problems are worse. It is about creating working environments where people feel valued, rewarded, and accomplished. Having your needs
> devalued, for whatever reason, will lead to unhappiness.

True.   but how do we create that environment, when people argue (and they do) that the old one is so productive that we shouldn't change it?

If we agree that the problem is not the individual choices we make, but the desire to incorporate all of them into doing science, how do we change the structure to
accomodate real lives and not burn us out?

> "Using one's willingness and ability to do intellectual battle to decide
> whether you're smart, or whether your idea is good is works really well
> for people who like to fight, and it tells you absolutely nothing about
> anybody else." -- Anita Borg

excellent quote, and so true.  Unfortunately,  those who like to fight  appear to be in charge....

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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
"These are my opinions.  I don't have
time to speak for anyone else."


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