Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why are women the ones seeking balance?

I recently went to an NIH study section and there were several women on the panel.  It was great to see that many women, even though it meant lines in the ladies room during breaks.  We noted several things: (1) it was the women that were in a hurry to get home and were pushing to finish in time to make an earlier flight/train home, (2) I saw 4 study section members in the fitness center between 6-6:30 AM, and all were female.  I’m sure some of the men must work out right?  Now either they work out later (since they can get ready more quickly in the AM) or they don’t work out on the road because they have plenty of time at home to work out.  I find it funny, but I think these to observations exemplify how women work hard to balance their lives (generally harder than men).  I find it easier to work out on the road because I only have to get myself ready and out the door in the AM, and can wake up at the same time given no commute and no kids to get up.  Just some interesting observations….  
Also, the women had some very insightful comments and worked hard to keep things consistent across the whole set of grants.

Your thoughts?

Monday, May 10, 2010

What decade are we in?

I am aware that gender-based discrimination does occur today.  However, I assumed that most of the time it was restricted to inappropriate comments and other more subtle acts.  Recently I attended a meeting where the gender pay equity results were presented for my university.  It turns out that women are paid less then men regardless of school, rank, and year post-degree (and some other time correction factors).  This data was 1 year old.  I was shocked!!! Now depending on the school and department you may not be able reach statistical significance (given small departments and small number of women in many cases)  but when the residual difference between men and women is always negative in every model for every school, that is a problem.  And when the residual difference has tripled in the last 10 years, that also seems like a bad sign.

The big question is what to do.  We are a private university and salary info is supposed to be secret.  We aren't supposed to share it with others.  I will preface this by saying that my school actually had the least difference (percentage wise) thanks to a great previous dean who corrected problems.  My chair is very fair and tries to have a standard rate for a given rank (corrected for time at rank).  Also, having a spouse at the university gives me localized data.  But as a university how do we fix this?  Clearly the chairs are setting the salaries so they have control, but how do we hold them accountable when the data is private and often cannot be release on a department level to the public given the number of individuals at a rank?  Deans should be overseeing this, but clearly this is not happening.  This is just part of a climate problem at our university but this is a clear sign.

What as women can we do to change this?  Seek guidance for our professional societies?  Set up to model based calculator to guide negotiations for women on campus?  Riot in the street?  And why does this happen?  Do women just settle for less?  Do the chairs push them harder to accept less?  Are we less likely to get outside offers to push our salaries up?

How can it be 2010 and well educated, highly-qualified women are still paid less than men?