The Real Problem with Marie Curie

Nov 18 2013 Published by under [Science in Society]

So hot...like radioactive...

The internet went all a-twitter over the weekend about a video posted by Joe Hanson (@jtotheizzoe) in which he imagines the scientist bobble-heads in his collection joining him for Thanksgiving dinner. In it, the Einstein bobble-head repeatedly makes sexual advances toward the Curie figure, assaulting her at the end of the piece.  Certainly tasteless, even with bobble-heads, especially given recent events in the world of online science communication. Sophomoric? Certainly. Criminal? Hardly.

This video is part of Hanson's work for PBS Digital Studios, an ongoing series called It's Okay to be Smart. I am still unclear what this video had to do with Thanksgiving, being smart, or anything else, other than an excuse to play with bobble-heads. An apology eventually appeared, but the video remains on the internet. I wish PBS would take it down, but they haven't. There have been calls to fire Hanson. That seems a bit over-the-top to me, but then I watch Family Guy.

Then it came out that Joe Hanson will be moderating a session at Science Online in 2014. Moderaters were selected weeks ago; those in control could not have anticipated this unfortunate turn of events. At this point I tweeted a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that we dress up as Curie and beat the snot out of him at his session. I imagined a group of 20 bobble-head look-alikes coming at him...well, my attempt at humor also bombed. Repeated tweets have called for a serious, non-violent response.

It's kind of like TSA began running twitter: "Do not joke about weapons on the plane" or violence at the unconference.

What I would like to point out is the real problem here: Marie Curie is the only female bobble-head! In that setting, gender becomes the most obvious characteristic of the bobble-head. Why should the male bobble-heads consider her scientific accomplishments when she is merely the token woman? Clearly, her only raison d'etre must be her sex! In real life, such tokenism contibutes to an environment that permits marginalization of women (and other minorities) and likely contibutes to harassment. Does that excuse Einstein's douchebaggery? Hell no - dudes (even resin bobble-heads) should be able to keep their pants on and zipped! But the dynamics would have been different had Rosalind Franklin, Gerty Cori, and Linda Buck bobble-heads joined the party. Why can't I buy bobble-heads of these Nobel laureates? It's like Marie Curie is the only woman scientist ever!

So perhaps we should all step back and take a deep breath. We have an episode here that illustrates a lot of issues that lead to a hostile environment for women in science. No one has been physically harmed, although good taste was violated. Let's use this episode to learn and grow, rather than blame and shame.

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What I Am Reading: Lean In

Mar 26 2013 Published by under What I'm Reading, Women as leaders

I finally crawled out from under a rock (also known as the inpatient service) and heard everyone talking about Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, I first encountered negative reviews, but then found some raving about the book. That left only one logical course of action: download and read!

Click for link on Amazon

First, some agreement with the naysayers. Sheryl Sandberg, a highly educated C-suite officer for Facebook, speaks from a position of incredible privilege. She has connections and a lifestyle of which most of us can only dream. The story about finding her daughter's head lice on a company jet was not exactly the situation most of us face with the pesky pests. Her advice to lean in to our careers must read like a weird fantasy to the average employed woman, someone worried about paying rent rather than achieving loftier goals. Her view is very first-world-centric as well; for the most part, the women to which she writes have basic human rights raising them above the level of property. She notes this early in the book:

But knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better. When the suffragettes marched in the streets, they envisioned a world where men and women would be truly equal. A century later, we are still squinting, trying to bring that vision into focus.

Sandberg, Sheryl (2013-03-11). Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (p. 5). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Now that I have acknowledged that issue, we can move on to why I loved this book. I see so many women leaning back rather than into their work, giving up on goals before they have to make a choice. Sandberg describes the same situation, including discussions about raising a family with a woman who does not have a life partner nor is ready to reproduce! Those of us who have made it to senior ranks with spouse and children often get into this conversation.

Chapter 5 particularly hit home, entitled "Are You My Mentor?" Someone decided mentorship was the missing key to success for women, but many women seem to be in an ongoing quest for this person:

...searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming. We all grew up on the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty,” which instructs young women that if they just wait for their prince to arrive, they will be kissed and whisked away on a white horse to live happily ever after. Now young women are told that if they can just find the right mentor, they will be pushed up the ladder and whisked away to the corner office to live happily ever after. Once again, we are teaching women to be too dependent on others.

Sandberg, Sheryl (2013-03-11). Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (p. 66). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There are those who argue that we must abolish institutional barriers that hold all women back, things like unequal pay and societal sexism. Others argue that breaking down the glass ceiling will promote those changes. Why not do both?

Sandberg hopes to inspire another wave of feminism to combat inequality. LeanIn.org encourages women to form LeanIn Circles:

We often achieve more in groups than we do as individuals. Lean In Circles put this idea into practice.

Circles are small groups that meet regularly to share and learn together—like a book club focused on helping members achieve their goals. Lean In provides an online space that makes it easy for your Circle to get organized and stay connected.

Your Circle is yours. We encourage you to decide what works for your group. If you prefer structure, our Circle Kits include everything you need to run a successful Circle. You can also find the right people and figure out things as you go.'

A variety of tools on the site will help small groups come together to discuss equality. As we learn together and talk, we can bridge some of what divides us.

Let's all lean in to all aspects of our lives.

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Last Week's Travels

Nov 20 2012 Published by under Feminist Musings

Last week I flew to Portland, Oregon, for the third annual congress of Vision 2020. Our group wants to drive women to full equality by 2020, the centennial of the 19th amendment granting women US voting rights.

We have some distance to cover in the next 8 years.

The congress did include a screening of this video; I think you will enjoy it!

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Welcome to My Weekend

Empowering today's leaders to guide tomorrow's healthcare enterprise

I spent another weekend (OK, a long, Thursday through Sunday weekend) on the road in Philadelphia. This time I attended the first meeting of a group now called Women Executives in Science & Healthcare (WESH).  This group consists of men and women who have middle- and upper-level management positions in academic medicine and dentistry and public health. As part of our recent rebranding, we developed the following definition:

Integrated network of executive leaders in healthcare & science across the academic health enterprise

We want to bridge the walls between disciplines both within and outside of academia. We hope to attract C-suite women in healthcare: Chief Legal Officers, Chief Medical Officers, and others in healthcare management who do not necessarily have a healthcare or science degree. Managers in biotech and pharma will also be interested in the networking opportunities provided by this group.

The educational portion of the Spring Summit, dedicated to Renewal and Redirection, can be found here. While not the largest gathering of twitterati on the planet, a handful of folks provided enough thoughts to produce this Storify:

Want to know more about WESH or think you might want to join? Click the links and learn more at our brand-spanking-new web site!

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That Time of Year Again: "Equal" Pay Day

Apr 17 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

April 17, 2012, is the date when women will earn what men took home in 2011. Yes, it will take the average women almost four extra months to earn what men get in twelve.

When I grew up in the 1970's I spent no time worrying about this problem. After all, I was a woman going to medical school, then a male-dominated profession. If more women chose the MD instead of the RN we would catch up with those pesky d00ds. The answer lay in education, getting me and my "sisters" to pursue higher-paying fields.

Now women make up nearly half of new doctors, yet even we suffer a pay gap. Even in academia we make less, even in pediatrics, a specialty with lots of women physicians. I wrote in detail about a study that came out in January in Academic Medicine in which the Department of Pediatrics at University of Colorado performed a gender equity study. They found many gaps in the treatment of their female faculty, but the salary differences were impressive (figure below right).

Click to enlarge; data from Acad Med 87:98, 2012

All salaries were standardized to 1.0 FTE and compared to national means for rank, years in rank, and subspecialty. The average male faculty member received 105% of the median, while the average female received only 98%. Looked at another way, 51% of men had salaries at or above the median (black line in red bar in right column of figure), about what one would expect with a "normal" salary distribution. Only 28% of women earned in this range (black line in left column of figure). Remember, these data have been adjusted for part-time work, rank, years in rank, and subspecialty. The authors concluded that the department did not treat women and men equally, and salary corrections were implemented immediately.

These women got a break. First, this salary gap averaged $12,000, a gap they would "make up" with only 1-2 more months of work. They also worked in a department that did the study and made corrections. Women in lower-paying fields may take much longer to catch up to their male counterparts, and many of them have no idea how underpaid they are. If they cannot document the gap, then they cannot use the law to address it.

Pay equity is unfair. Pay equity is wrong. Find out where the candidates stand on fair pay laws. Then use your vote. Together, we can change the country.

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Inspiration From #TEDMED

Apr 12 2012 Published by under [Medicine&Pharma]

Yesterday I got to hear a TEDMED talk by Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One theme that hit home with me:

If you do not track and measure something over time, you will never know if you succeed, no matter how hard you work.

This is exactly why I started the Academic Women for Equality NOW website. Click over there and read my thoughts about this wonderful talk.

I promise I will link to the video when it goes up online.

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Waltzing Matilda Needs to Run!

Apr 03 2012 Published by under Women in Science

I posted over at another of my sites about an interesting paper I read on the Matilda Effect in STEM awards.

Not this Matilda

Who is Matilda? She's related to Matthew of biblical fame. Lines from this gospel essentially state that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. In STEM disciplines, this means that more successful senior people get more grants, awards, and accolades, even if younger, less-known investigators propose similar ideas. Matilda refers to the tendency of people to recognize the work of men (like Watson and Crick) but marginalize the contributions of women (like Rosalind Franklin).

So click on over and read about this study of awards to men and women in a variety of STEM fields from 1991-2010. People still blame the lack of women in the pipeline, but this work suggests that hypothesis is wrong!

 

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Speaking of Mentors: You Also Need Sponsors

I did make an LOL cat for today's retread

The past 24 hours featured a great deal of stress and little sleep. The book review on tap for today is not going to happen.

Since we were on the topic of mentors, and the potential for over-mentoring, a previous post from one of my other sites came to mind. Enjoy!

And hope I get some sleep tonight.

This post originally appeared August 25, 2010, on PascaleLane's Stream of Thought:

The September [2010] issue of Harvard Business Review includes a fascinating article by Ibarra, Carter, and Silva examining the reasons women still do not achieve as much as men. “Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women” identifies differences in the types of “grooming” that the genders receive, and the gaps that keep women from breaking through all of those glass ceilings.

One of the quotes in the first paragraph really hit home with me:

Now I am being mentored to death.

My former chair identified me as someone with leadership potential over a decade ago. He connected me with a variety of development opportunities; ultimately, I felt “developed.” Now I lead one of the faculty leadership courses for my institution. We encourage participants to learn about themselves and to identify mentors both within and outside of our academic home. We are beginning to examine achievement several years later, and a question persists: Why do men seem to do so much better than women, even after the same opportunities?

According to  a 2008 Catalyst survey, 83% of women and 76% of men reported having at least one mentor during their career, yet only 65% of the women (compared with 72% of men) were promoted by the 2010 follow-up date. If mentoring is the key to success, why aren’t these women succeeding?

Turns out, the mentors differ. Men were more likely to be mentored by a senior executive (78% vs 69%), one with the organizational power to advocate their advisee as someone ready and worthy of taking the next step. The authors’ go on to differentiate between mentors and sponsors. Mentors provide emotional support, feedback , and other advice. They serve as role models, and assist their charges with institutional politics. Their focus is generally on personal and professional development with increased sense of competence and self-worth. Mentoring provides satisfaction; sponsorship is a necessity, though.

Sponsors must be senior leaders in good standing who can provide connections within the institution to facilitate promotion. A sponsor will assist their advisee in attaining opportunities and assignments, as well as protecting them from negative situations. Most important, a sponsor will fight for promotion of their people.

The senior management with the power and connections to make good sponsors are, unfortunately, overwhelmingly male. Such high-achievers often lack the sensibilities of a mentor, and throwing in the potential pitfalls in relationships (or perceptions thereof) between senior males and junior women, well, you can see why this relationship can be difficult.

So how can women get sponsors? Institutions interested in promoting high-potential women must establish sponsorship for them. The involved parties must be clear on the relationship; promotion is the goal! Such efforts cannot circumvent the woman’s current boss and job responsibilities, nor should mentorship be completely ignored. The leaders may also need to consider their own views on gender issues; women still have trouble navigating “the fine line between being ‘not aggressive enough’ or ‘lacking in presence’ and being ‘too aggressive’ or ‘too controlling’.”

What happens if a high-potential woman does not get appropriate sponsorship within her institution? In this study, at least, she leaves:

At Deutsche Bank, for example, internal research revealed that female managing directors who left the firm to work for competitors were not doing so to improve their work/life balance. Rather, they’d been offered bigger jobs externally, ones they weren’t considered for internally.

One of the development opportunities provided for me, the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine program for women, included a bunch of structured interviews. Participants had to meet the dean and all sorts of C-suite officials for their institution. At the time, I found this activity useful because once I have met a person I feel pretty comfortable contacting them again. In light of this article, the activity provided another benefit- it put me on the radar of the people at my place of employment as someone with the potential to move up in the organization. I did not achieve true “sponsorship,” but if I were to do this again, that would be on the list.

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You Know You Want It...

Mar 01 2012 Published by under Women in Medicine, Women in Science

I have finally recovered officially from my stomach bug, tested at a local Mexican eating establishment last night with salsa and margaritas.  I have done actual science in the last 24 hours, and I have caught up on some other stuff.

The big news today is over at Academic Women for Equality Now, my Vision2020 project. I finally have the Female Faculty Friendliness Grade Cards for every US College of Medicine compiled into a single document, along with a bunch of the supporting data and analyses. This material originally appeared as a series of posts over 4 months. Now, you can more easily compare medical colleges by region, by type of position, you name it.

Unfortunately, the size of the document exceeds that of the upload capacity of my site (for now). I have a work-around, as you will see on the site.

Go ahead, click on over and get the PDF...you know you want it...

I am still looking for collaborators on the site: guest posts, people with other data sets to analyze, etc. If it deals even remotely with gender in the Ivory Tower, I will welcome your participation. Drop me a line!

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Check Her Out

Dec 19 2011 Published by under Women in Medicine, Women in Science

I have blogged about Academic Women for Equality Now, my project for Vision 2020. As part of this project, I will be interviewing women of note in academia or who have things to say that affect us in some way. I am proud to start this series with Page Morahan, PhD, a successful microbiologist and former department chair who gave all that up to be founding director for the ELAM program for women leaders in medicine, dentistry, and public health. Click on over and enjoy her perspectives on what she has accomplished and what she plans to do (hint: she's not done improving the world for women).

In the meantime, if you know someone AWEnow should interview, make a suggestion in the comments or drop me an email to mail (at) awenow dot org.

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