It’s the conventional wisdom that women are held back in science because of sexism. A new paper by a research team at Cornell University reports that young women faculty members prosper in math-based fields of science. Statistically, women are less likely to continue on in certain science fields, but there are cultural conventions that need to be taken into account. Visiting Factual Feminist Sally Satel will discuss these factors in this episode. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!
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Hi, I am Sally Satel, resident scholar at AEI, today’s Visiting Factual Feminist.
Today, it’s the conventional wisdom that women are held back in science because of sexism. But a new paper by a Cornell University research team reports that young women faculty members prosper in math-based fields of science coming up next on the factual feminist.
A research team lead by Cornell University’s Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams asked why men hold less than one third of the tenure track positions in math-intensive fields such as physics, chemistry, geoscience, and engineering.
They examined several hundred analyses of recent data on hiring, salary, promotion, productivity and job satisfaction. And found that academic women fare as well as men in professional achievement and satisfaction in math-intensive science fields.
PhD women are as likely as men to be invited to interview for a tenure-track job, to be offered such a job; to receive comparable salaries and be promoted as often to assistant professor. Their rates of grant funding rates are comparable with men. They work similar hours; and express similar levels of career satisfaction. Against this backdrop, there was an interesting pattern in publication rate.
For women without children , the rate was the same as that of men without children –but women with children published at the lowest rate.. Men with children are the most productive. Now, the data from childless men and childless women suggests that there are not sexist barriers to women’s success, but what about women with children– The ones with the lowest publication rate? While research is needed to fill in the picture, but you could speculate that this disparity exists because fathers are more likely to have a spouse caring full-time for their children than mothers. It’s not rocket science: it is easier to have kids and a career if someone else is doing the lion’s share of the child care. This reflects cultural conventions, not sexism. Even so, it appears that these differences in publication did not affect promotion to asst prof. So. If biases don’t explain the underrepresentation of women in the tenure track in math-intensive fields, what does? mThe biggest reasons, according to the Cornell researchers and others, are rooted in women’s earlier educational choices (college courses), and in their occupational and lifestyle preferences. mBut preferences are shaped and one important influence is exposure to science education and to academic role models: Indeed, if women took introductory science courses early in their college education, the data showed, they were actually more likely than men to switch into majors in math-intensive fields of science — especially so if their instructors were women. Right now, only 25 to 40% of new professors are women, but as more women that enter these fields and become instructors, the more female students can be inspired. When Ceci and Williams presented the highlights of their work in a New York Times op-ed, there was blow back. One science commentator found the piece to contain “flawed and offensive logic”…He readily admitted to not having read the full article. Critics claimed that the authors turned a blind eye to workplace hostility — thereby overlooking the hostile forces to which the women were surely subject. Instead, the author focused on more easily measurable outcome variables.
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