March 21, 2008

WOMEN IN SCIENCE and...(an illuminating conjunction)!

One of a series of 36 posters by Pamela Davis Kivelson for the PDK Poster Project on Women in Science.



The title of the article on women in science was a little bit odd, "Why Can't a Woman Be More like a Man?" and there were some other clues as well. But my misgivings were allayed by the following sentence that appeared close to the beginning. "The research on gender and vocation is complex, vibrant, and full of reasonable disagreements; there is no single, sensible answer." I experienced a pleasurable crisp feeling as I read that.

I have been somewhat less condemning of the Lawrence Summers escapade (transcripts of his comments) than most of my colleagues at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis. (See also) As a scientist I feel that even controversial, "politically incorrect" data should get an airing, especially if it speaks to critical cultural controversies. However, I have to acknowledge that I cannot say how I would have reacted had I been at his presentation.

The facts seem clearly stated in the third paragraph of the article. “ Women comprise just 19% of tenure-track professors in math, 11% in physics, 10% in computer science, and 10% in engineering. And the pipeline does not promise statistical parity any time soon: women are now earning 25% of the Ph.D.'s in the physical sciences---way up from the 4% of the 1960s, but still far behind the rate they are winning doctorates in other fields." This apparently clear statement of the facts along with the crisp sentence cited above helped set me up (primed me) to be more accepting of the author's argument than I otherwise might have been.

She argues that the low percentage of women in these fields reflects the female tendency to prefer careers connected to nurturing. She cites, for example, a survey in which 1500 professors (gender breakdown not given) were asked what accounts for the low percentage of women and 74% chalked it up to differences in interests. She also cites work by Baron-Cohen suggesting that autism is the far end of the male spectrum. He feels that the male brain on average is wired to be better at systematizing and the female brain better at empathizing.

In a skillfully presented case, the author suggests that the campaign to get more women in these as well as other aspects of science is not just a con, but a juggernaut completely out of control. Those on the gender equality in the sciences bandwagon have hoodwinked university presidents, the NSF, and now even Congress into making a nonexistent problem a cause célèbre. A Title IX program for the physical sciences analogous to the Title IX program for sports is in effect (although its requirements have apparently been unevenly enforced). They have been able to do this, she claims, because of:



… a body of feminist research that purports to prove (emphasis added) that women suffer from “hidden bias.” This research, artfully (emphasis added) presented with no critics or skeptics present, can be persuasive. A brief look at it helps explain the mind-set of the critics and their supporters. But it is a highly ironic story. For the three recognized canons of literature are, in key respects, travesties of the scientific method, and they have been publicized and promoted in ways that ignore elementary standards of transparency in objectivity.

Since I only had the information the author gave me, at first reading I found her arguments plausible against two of the three sources used to bolster the feminists perspective (see below however). Introducing the third source, she wrote “How in the face of women's clear tendencies to choose other careers and more balanced lifestyles, can one reasonably attribute the scarcity of women in science and engineering to unconscious bias and sexist discrimination? Valian showed the way.” Quoting Valian, she continues:

In white, Western middle-class society, the gender schema for men includes being capable of independent, autonomous action...[and being] assertive, instrumental, and task oriented. Men act. The gender schema for women is different: it includes being nurturant, expressive, communal, and concerned about others.

Continuing to describe Valian's work, she says:

Valian does not deny that schemas have a foundation in biology, but she insists that culture can intensify or diminish their power and their effect. Our society, she says, pressures women to indulge their nurturing propensities while it encourages men to develop "a strong commitment to earning and prestige, great dedication to the job, and an intense desire for achievement." All this inevitably result in a permanently unfair advantage for men.


I recognized some deep resonance with Valian’s claims. However just as I was starting to reconsider the easy pass I was giving the argument of the author of the article I was reading, I learned about mandatory gender bias workshops in which interactive theater about exaggerated situations is used to try to raise the consciousness of physicists and engineers who get government grants. This did seem over-the-top. I was also kept in line by a report of a Title IX review requiring a female physics professor to make a list of all the equipment in the lab and indicate whether women were allowed to use each item.

I finished the article and then noticed that what I had been reading was published in the American Enterprise Institute bimonthly newsletter. I also recognized that the author Christina Hoff Sommers had written an intensely antifeminist book (while claiming herself as a true feminist). Uh-huh, I thought to myself.

In retrospect, the last paragraph of the article made perfect sense.Sommer's wrote, "Americans scientific excellence is a precious natural resource. It is the foundation of our economy and of the nation's health and safety" She then points out that people from MIT have started more than 5000 companies in the past 50 years. She asks, "Will an academic science that is quota-driven, gender-balanced, cooperative rather than competitive, and less time-consuming produce anything like these results?"

Cooperative science works, and more of it sounds great to me. Moreover, as current events strongly argue, the well-being of our economy and our health and safety as citizens depends considerably more on having leaders capable of objectivity and willing to assure adequate government regulation and than it does on resisting any hypothetical decline in scientific and technological innovation that having more women in these fields might bring. Besides having more women might increase innovation!



**************************
Without thinking more about the article, I went on to my real task for the evening. It was once again rereading a paper by John Bargh and Melissa Fergerson on the automaticity of higher mental processes. They reviewed studies showing that researchers can prime all kinds of higher level behavior most of us generally assume depends primarily on conscious processes. For example just by giving subjects scrambled sentences containing several words relating to a stereotype they can prime subjects to identify with a stereotype and thereby influence their behavior. In one study subjects were primed with the stereotype of university professor or hooligan. In a second apparently unrelated task, those primed with the professor stereotype answered more Trivial Pursuit questions than those primed with hooligan.

Even as I have appreciated the growing body of work in Social Psychology on automatic behavior, I have been a bit resistant to it. For one thing, it seems that random priming influences would more or less cancel out in real life. Also this work is often used to make the point that introspection is useless since our behavior is governed by extraneous influences of which we are unaware. Certainly introspection, like anything else, has its limits, but it is often invaluable.

That night the words of the article almost danced on the page. I really got it, or the version of it that makes sense to me. Even very subtle consistent environmental influences can over time have a powerful and long-lasting effect on the psyche. Once again, the message about the power of conditioning hit home. Wow!



*******************

The next morning as I lay in bed, I was quite astonished when I recognized the relevance of the work on automaticity to the women in science problem. No wonder the words danced on the page! The women in science article had in a sense primed me to get the social psychology material on environmental priming (and vice versa as well--- why not reverse priming since things stick around in our head?).

As I lay there, my thoughts kept coming back to the female junior physics professor who Sommers claimed had been required to list for Title IX reviewers whether women were allowed to use each piece of equipment. I wondered whether she had instead been asked to report, on the basis of equipment logs, the percentage of time women got to use important pieces of equipment versus men? Such a question could provide data on one aspect of potential implicit gender bias in laboratories. (The other question, if it makes sense that all, would look at explicit bias.) So I decided to check out Sommers sources. Yes, I found that the female junior physics professor, not shy about her hostility to Title IX review,really did tell a reporter for Science Magazine that she was required to list all her equipment and say if female lab members could use each piece. (I still suspect this is not the whole story.)

I will not consider the second gender-bias-in-science source Sommers critiques, as the story is too convoluted. However Sommers was less than judicious in her comments about the summary of the in-house MIT report made available to the public---which was what got the "gender equality in science" movement going in the first place. For example, she quotes from an ungenerous source, conservative anti-feminist Judith Kleinfeld who calls it “junk science” for not obtaining confidential informationin some cases and not revealing it in others.

In contrast I was struck by the judicious and sincere tone of the report. For example, on page 8, it says, “Data reviews revealed that in some departments, men and women faculty appear to share equally in material resources and rewards, in others they did not.”

Sommers in addition claims that the summary, which was publicized as showing objectively that there was a woman in science problem, failed to do so. I disagree since it documented the most important piece of information. It shows that from 1985-1994 the proportion of women in senior faculty positions in MIT’s School of Science remained constant at roughly 8%.

She also suggests the authors of the report might be misconstruing the broader problem in a critical way. Quoting from the report, she writes: [The summary concedes]“Junior women felt included and supported by their departments." Sommers continues: "Instead of acknowledging that the problem might be generational and confined to a small group of senior women from three departments, Hopkins and the other authors of the report claimed that the Junior women were naïve and simply did not know what was in store for them: [Again quoting the report] "Each generation of young women began... by believing that gender discrimination was solved in the previous generation and would not touch them.”

Quite to the contrary, the scientists place this paradox close to the core of their understanding of the problem. It is what we call the glass ceiling.

An important finding to emerge from the interviews was that the difference in the perception of junior and senior women faculty about the impact of gender on their careers is a difference that repeats itself over generations. Each generation of young women, including those who are currently senior faculty, began by believing that gender discrimination was "solved" in the previous generation and would not touch them. Gradually however, their eyes were opened to the realization that the playing field is not level after all, and that they had paid a high price both personally and professionally as a result. (p. 9: from section called: What the Committee Learned)


Implicit gender bias increases as women climb the academic latter . [From the summary of the report by the chair of the MIT faculty, p. 3:] "It was only when they came together, and with persistence and integrity, that they saw that as their careers advanced something else besides competence came into play, which for them meant an accumulation of slight disadvantages, with just the opposite for their male colleagues.

Two other paragraphs struck me as I read the report, especially after having "got" the work on priming.


...While the reasons for discrimination are complex, a critical part of the explanation lies in our collective ignorance. We must accept that what happened to the tenured women faculty in the School of Science is what discrimination is. It defines discrimination in the period from the 1970s up till today. But we, including for a long time the women faculty themselves, were slow to recognize and understand this for several reasons. First, it did not look like what we thought discrimination looked like. Most of us thought that the Civil Rights laws and Affirmative Action had solved gender "discrimination". But gender discrimination turns out to take many forms and many of these are not simple to recognize. Women faculty who lived the experience came to see the pattern of difference in how their male and female colleagues were treated and gradually they realized that this was discrimination. But when they spoke up, no one heard them, believing that each problem could be explained alternatively by its "special circumstances." Only when the women came together and shared their knowledge, only when the data were looked at through this knowledge and across departments, were the patterns irrefutable.

They found that discrimination consists of a pattern of powerful, but unrecognized assumptions and attitudes that work systematically against women faculty in the light of obvious goodwill. Like many discoveries, at first it is startling and unexpected. Once you "get it," it seems almost obvious. Of (p.10-11: from section called: How Did Inequality Come about? “Gender Discrimination” in 1999).


By 1999 when the summary of the 1995 report was released as a result of its recommendations the percentage of female tenured faculty at MIT in the sciences had increased to 13%, representing a 40% increase. However as far as I can ascertain, the percentage seems to have remained relatively steady since. Certainly there are fewer women than men who want to go into these fields, no doubt in part because of innate preferences. But implicit bias against women in science, which women as well as men harbor, exacerbates the situation. (By the way, you might might want to test and see if you have unconscious bias that associates science more with men than women.)


Finally this brings us back to those over-the-top workshops on gender bias mandated by Title IX. Implicit gender bias, like other implicit bias, is nearly impossible for us to become aware of on our own. Workshops on gender bias using interactive theater and exaggerated situations, rather than indicating a feminist agenda out of control, may make sense as a way to shake up implicit as well as explicit bias. However I feel it might be even more important to have workshops in junior high, high school, and college that help counteract the bias against becoming a scientist in the young women themselves harbor.



13 comments:

The Biscuit Queen said...

I have to ask, why is it so impossible to think that women just choose not to go into these fields? There is nothing to be embarrassed about going into a field where your natural abilities are utilized. As a woman who is perfectly capable of excelling in hard sciences, I can say that just because I can doen't mean I want to. I chose a field based more on my own happiness than to boost the number of women in a particular field.

What role do you think money plays? Most women do not have the expectation of having to support a family built into them from the time they are young. Don't you think the added responsibility men feel to be sole family supporter plays a role in what jobs they choose? Women have the option of marrying up and quitting work, where as most men are never presented with the possibility of that option.

I also have to ask how you feel about the overrepresentation of men in the death fields such as logging, farming, oil rigger,and highrise construction for example, and how this causes 93% of all workplace deaths to be male.

Finally, I wonder what bias exists in fields such as nursing and teaching which cause the same gender imbalance as the sciences towards women. While the base pay is higher in the sciences, the non-monetary benefits are much higher in female dominated fields such as extended vacation time, lower work hours, flexibility, job satisfaction, and increased benefits including tenure.

In my experience women of my generation (I am in my late 30's) have been not only encouraged but actively pushed to go into hard sciences, and have been offered much financial incentive to do so. This includes expecting at least $10,000 more a year out of college than their male counterparts. Seems to me that you cannot force women to go into sciences for the sake of some imaginary ideal of parity. And if you want parity, you should be seeking it in all areas, not just ones by which women have to gain.

Anonymous said...

Here's a quote from Peter Lawrence, whose position mirrors my own:

Some have a dream that, one fine day, there will be equal numbers of men and women in all jobs, including those in scientific research. But I think this dream is Utopian; it assumes that if all doors were opened and all discrimination ended, the different sexes would be professionally indistinguishable. The dream is sustained by a cult of political correctness that ignores the facts of lifeand thrives only because the human mind likes to bury experience as it builds beliefs. Here I will argue . . . that men and women are born different. Yet even we scientists deny this, allowing us to identify the best candidates for jobs and promotions by subjecting men and women to the same tests. But since these tests favor predominantly male characteristics, such as self-confidence and aggression, we choose more men and we discourage women. Science would be better served if we gave more opportunity and power to the gentle, the reflective, and the creative individuals of both sexes. And if we did, more women would be selected, more would choose to stay in science, and more would get to the top Peter Lawrence (2006)


I don't like the term "gender," but rather prefer "sex differences." "Gender" carries too much politically correct baggage, and implies that the two sexes are behaviorally identical save for cultural-acquired information (learning). Bah!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why either 'self-confidence and aggression' or 'gentleness' should have any bearing at all on selecting candidates for scientific jobs. The same criteria should be used for both men
and women and they should deal with competence in science period, as that competence is needed for the specific job. This whole issue of whether men or women are 'better' at science is really rather unscientific. The whole process should be gender blind.

Jim said...

I am a little disturbed by this excerpt:

"In white, Western middle-class society, the gender schema for men includes being capable of independent, autonomous action... assertive, instrumental, and task oriented. Men act. The gender schema for women is different: it includes being nurturant, expressive, communal, and concerned about others."

"Valian does not deny that schemas have a foundation in biology, but she insists that culture can intensify or diminish their power and their effect. Our society, she says, pressures women to indulge their nurturing propensities while it encourages men to develop "a strong commitment to earning and prestige, great dedication to the job, and an intense desire for achievement." All this inevitably result in a permanently unfair advantage for men."


I'm not sure what the permanently unfair advantage for men is. My guess is that its a career advantage. But the attributes that men are encouraged to develop: a strong commitment to earning and prestige, great dedication to the job, and an intense desire for achievement don't seem like the best attributes to develop in order to lead a meaningful life.

Later, the article states:



... Cooperative science works, and more of it sounds great to me. Moreover, as current events strongly argue, the well-being of our economy and our health and safety as citizens depends considerably more on having leaders capable of objectivity and willing to assure adequate government regulation and than it does on resisting any hypothetical decline in scientific and technological innovation that having more women in these fields might bring. Besides having more women might increase innovation!


I think that makes a lot of sense. However, my fear is that we will increase the number of women in science by having women develop these less than desirable traits. I think a better, although much more difficult approach, is to change the way we do science.

Lois said...

Jim
First I want to say that I find your comments extremely astute. Yes in part I reacted the same way you do to Valian’s claims, although I did not focus on that in my piece. But I don't think prestige (etc.) is really the issue, rather it is the ability to contribute as fully as one can. Some women find this exclusively in nurturing roles, some women do for a time and then not, and some women are never satisfied just supporting others. Yet for the most part, both men and women like to feel capable of autonomous independent action, being assertive and instrumental, as well as nurturant, expressive, and communal.

I agree that if everyone becomes restricted to the male model there will be a serious loss of meaning. I would argue for efforts to enlarge the gender schema for each sex. In fact the notion of “contributing” to the best of one's ability brings the two together. It takes the worst out of the ego aspect of being instrumental. Thus with much more of a societal emphasis on being a player, having a voice, feeling self-esteem etc. by contributing to the greater good, we might cut down on those who get to feel instrumental by screwing others to satisfy their greed.

I do think that one of the problems in the past with more women entering science is that to do so (and in the process) they have become much like male scientists. I feel two things are relevant here. With a critical mass of women in faculty roles in science this will slowly begin to change. Also I think that the most important tasks facing science are necessarily beginning to change, and perhaps will so much more dramatically in the future. For survival in the face of an ever shrinking world and shrinking natural resources, the assertive, individual model is less and less tenable and the communal model more and more required.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lois,
Come to my talk April 8. I think I'm talking about exactly what you mean by "priming". It starts in infancy and never stops. Interesting that, while Sommers points out that her opponents sent their offending article to two women reviewers, she herself send it to two men (and they comply with her expectations). While I think this sort of selective choice is more or less unavoidable, I don't think it can then be used as evidence.

Hilde

Anonymous said...

I should like to add that the whole process of scientific education should also be gender blind. And that means not only at the university level, but also going right back through high school to the first encounter in the elementary schools. Early science and math courses should be set up in such a way that they are equally accessible and interesting for boys and girls.

Parents and grandparents can play a role in making things better. Forget about teaching your girls how to cook. Instead, teach them technical subjects the require some math, how to build things in the shop, repair cars, take bicycles apart and put them back together, and to play scrabble, chess, "thinking games," logic puzzles, and such. Forget about dolls and baby carriages. The next time you send your granddaughter or any young girl a gift for Christmas or a birthday, make it a science game or project or a computer, not some fluffy, frilly article of clothing! Dispense with kiddie books about little animals acting and talking like people, and get the girls interested in elementary science books. And, while you are teaching your boys the same things, also teach them to understand and to respect and willingly accept that their future associates in the scientific and technical world will be girls as well as other boys.

Best wishes,

Donald W. Zimmerman
Vancouver, BC, Canada
dwzimm@telus.net
http://mypage.direct.ca/z/zimmerma/index.html

Anonymous said...

Donald,

Your comments suggest you do not believe that sexual dimorphism in complex behavior, such a toy preferences, logic skills, mechanical skills, spatial orientation skills, social interaction skills, etc. is adapted, that is, that innate differences between the sexes exist. Rather, you seem to be hanging on to the scientifically outdated thinking of 1950's era behavioralists that gender bias, poor upbringing, and the like are the only reason that males and females behave differently. Sorry to shatter your idealistic thinking, but young girls like to play with dolls and boys trucks. Nothing that a parent does will change this innate behavioral predisposition regarding the population of girls and the population of boys.

Increasing female participation in any social endeavor is a matter of changing the criteria whereby we construct and measure the effectiveness of that social endeavor, not in trying to change the female populations innate predispositions.


Sonny Williams
www.clarencewilliams.net
sonnyw@msn.com

Anonymous said...

Sonny,

I am skeptical of that idea, and even if it were true, I do not see that it has much practical importance. Since trucks and dolls are relatively recent objects existing in the environment in the vast sweep of history, it is a difficult to understand just how any innate difference, whatever it might be, would be causally related to a preference for one or the other of these objects in present day society. Once you begin to analyze that causal chain in any detail, you most likely would discover that the preference is very temporary and modifiable. The very fact that it is not universal, i.e., not all girls play with dolls, and some girls become highly proficient at mechanics, spatial relations, etc. implies that the development of those preferences is mainly dependent on the history of the individual.

Because something has a small innate component does not mean that it is desirable for present day society to maintain it or not try to alter it for the public good. That is the case even with activities with a larger innate component, such as fighting, eating in public, urinating on the sidewalk, sex in the park, coughing at concerts, killing your competitors, and many other things.

Best regards,

Donald W. Zimmerman
Vancouver, BC, Canada
dwzimm@telus.net
http://mypage.direct.ca/z/zimmerma/index.html

Kijar said...

SECURITY CENTER: See Please Here

Anonymous said...

Women are just driven out of these fields after they reach a certain level. Let's just call it like it is. In order to have the "strong commitment to earning and prestige, great dedication to the job, and an intense desire for achievement," men are supported by women who are "nurturant, expressive, communal, and concerned about others" whether these women are his research assistants, his wife, or his au pair/nanny/maid. If these women weren't taking care of his kids, laundry, his house, his meals, etc. If he didn't have this support structure he couldn't sustain the demands of having a family as well as a job. I have seen a number of women drop out of professional work because "my husband has better career opportunities than I do, so I will stay at home". The men do not want to work with women who are as competitive as they are and so they drive them out of the workplace after a certain point. There is a blindness in our society as to why we do not have a "farm system" of women in the pipeline for the prime positions. You should be able to follow a demographic curve with a women bulge at the senior level to reflect our aging society. This farm system doesn't work; we have no depth in our bench. We have tokenism instead. Tokenism actuall y accentuates the problem. You can blame that one woman and insist that person is deficient.

There was a study done by KPMG on the Department of Justice where it was found that the reason why high potential women did not get promoted was the supervisor was tracking them onto the mommy track. I submit that this is happening in sciences as well. When women progress to a senior level they see that the deck is stacked against them and they leave the field.

The funny thing is that this is a cultural problem limited to our society. In the Middle East, there are plenty of women engineers and scientists. Although they suffer similar barriers in career advancement.

Kazilar said...

See Please Here

Anonymous said...

When anyone tries to paint women as somehow having constitutionally difficulty in science, I've found it's usually based on broad brush statistical bullshit that doesn't take history or socialization into account. Take ten little girls randomly right now, and ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Hell, take a 100. It would be interesting to see how many Doctors as opposed to Princesses answers you get. Do little girls innately want to be a princess? Born with it?


From my own knowledge, more and more women are getting into medicine, and medicine is more and more a specialized field. If you are a researcher, we'll say of the immune system, not only do you need a meticulous mind, and solid scientific background, you have to be able to acclimatize to fast paced new information. In other words, multi task--a talent women supposedly excel at. What with all our Chile-bearin' skills doncha know.
And if the readers of this book should ever chance to see the poverty, hopelessness and the squalor of a modern Indian reservation, they may find it possible to truly understand the reasons why. Dee Brown, "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee"
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Elspeth (1000+ posts) Wed May-14-08 10:58 PM
Response to Original message
5. Tell this to Christina:
Edited on Wed May-14-08 11:17 PM by Elspeth
Women in certain sciences (computers, math) can get better paying positions outside the university with a B.S or M.S. than they can as academics. Sticking around for a PhD means giving up the best years for saving money and bearing children to a low-paying TA job with 5-10 years of study, and another 6 years of waiting for tenure.

Here's an example. If I get a BS in computer science or an MSIS (Information Systems), I can earn in the high five figures starting out and even the six figure range fairly quickly, depending on my locale, degree, etc. Coming out of college or a Master's program at 22-26, I can start earning decent money, saving it, while looking for a mate. Assuming 8-10 years of saving, I can have my kids in my early to mid 30's, before the high risks set in and before the biological clock issues. I will also have good health insurance and a job history that will probably allow me some flexibility once I do have kids.

If I go to get a PhD, the best case scenario would have me starting in my 20's, say at 22 or 23. I will live on a TA salary (if I get a TAship) which is about 7-10,000/year. Not all schools offer funding to all students. If I am lucky, I might even have some basic health insurance, but that's also not a given. If again, I am lucky, I can finish my PhD in 5 years. (This is assuming that I have no interruptions in schooling (like illness), nothing that causes me to leave (like ongoing sexual harassment*). Then, I will be 27-30, with a PhD and need to find a job, in this market. I will probably not make as much with a PhD starting out as I would be working for a company.

Now, when I find my academic job at 27-30, I have 6 years to earn tenure. These 6 years are hellish: lots of publish or perish, lots of traveling to conferences to give papers, lots of events to attend (to schmooze the department)--all while teaching a full load and having departmental (committee) responsibilities. This means that from 27/30-33/36, is probably the most stressful time for me and the worst time for having kids.

Add to that the sexism that still pervades academics--one prof I know was told that she ruined her career by having a baby before she got tenure, and sure enough, she didn't get it--and you end up waiting til 33/36 to start having kids, assuming you get tenure. There are studies demonstrating that the UC system, for example, hires women and minorities with new PhD's, but does not give them tenure. Even when female academics are established, they are at risk. At Drexel University about a decade ago, a new university president came in and fired all the top women. There was a class action suit, and a settlement out of court, but those women did not get their jobs back.

At any any rate, I need to be safely tenured for the best security for my kid(s). However, we start moving into a problematic time biologically at that point. I also probably don't have the same savings I would have had working in the private sector.

And this is a BEST case scenario. I am assuming 5 years for the PhD after a B.S degree and FUNDING (which many women do not get). However, even with funding the time one spends getting a PhD could greatly exceed 5 years. 6,7 and 8 years are not unusual for doctoral candidates. Much of this time is spent writing the dissertation. I also know a couple of women who passed their qualifying exams (which you need to pass before the dissertation): they passed exams in the first 3 years. But neither woman finished her dissertation on time because they both had gotten married. When a woman gets married, the family responsibilities fall to her--the household, the Christmas cards, the social upkeep, etc--and she is also expected to bring in a sufficient income. Both of these women worked full time hours (teaching, in the library) for part-timer pay, because they did not have their PhDs yet and could not get full time positions. They both ended up taking on jobs at more than 2 different schools. As a result, there was less time for these women to do the dissertation. Both of these women took 7 years to finish their dissertations, and neither had children. They just had husbands and jobs.

To conclude:

I'll bet most women in math and science look at all this and decide that the PhD is not cost effective and that it just won't work for them if they want a family. The private sector has more rewards and they are more immediate. The women who do tend to get PhDs are in areas which are not necessarily rewarded by the private sector: English, the Arts, etc. or for professional reasons: a PhD in psychology to be a therapist, or an EdD to be a high school principal.

I also think that many scientifically minded women might end up in business school for the same reasons: a B.S or M.B.A is enough education to get to a well paying position.

Oh, and one more thing. Let's say a woman decides that she wants to go back and get a PhD later in life--like in her 30's. She works for private industry in her 20's, saves money, and can pay for her degree herself. She will probably be told not to bother to apply: she's too old. (No kidding.) A friend of mine in computers WITH a master's in the field, decided to go back for a PhD at 37. She was told there was no way she would be accepted because of her age. This was a private university in Washington DC. This friend had the money to fund at least the first two years of her own studies. It didn't matter.

All in all, the PhD game does not work well for women. The timing is lousy, the sexism is rampant, especially in maths and sciences, and even in schools of architecture. Women are still regarded as less than. Add to that the (at best) low pay for so many years or (at worst) the huge expense, and it hardly seems worth it.

I think a real study needs to be done on women in PhD programs and on women who decide not to go further in the academic world.





*The UC system reports that around 40% of all graduate students are sexually harassed by professors.