Friday, September 28, 2012

80 cents to the dollar

  Despite our attempts at (and pride in) objectivity, gender bias exists within the sciences (I don't think I need to cite that statement). And a new article by Moss-Racusin et al. published in PNAS shows this bias extends to hiring and pay in academic departments. This article has received a lot of attention (including articles in the New York Times, Scientific American, and Discover Magazine) and details how the same application packet was evaluated differently based on the gender of the candidate. If the application was associated with a male, the average competency rating was 4 vs. 3.3 for a female. The average starting salary for a female applicant was $26,508, almost $4,000 dollars (~87%) less than the average male starting salary.
Male and female evaluators showed no significant difference in their evaluations, that is, a female evaluator devalued a female applicant just as much as her male counterparts. We could argue that this was for a laboratory manager and not a full professor, but let's not kid ourselves. This discrepancy extends beyond the sciences and impacts women in all lines of work. A 2007 study by Dey and Hill from the American Association of University Women found that women earn just 80% of what males earn a year after graduation, and only 69% ten years after graduation.

  Does this make you mad? IT MAKES ME MAD. SCIENTIST MAD, SMASH PIPETS AND CENTRIFUGE.  Well, maybe not the centrifuge. It's pretty useful. BUT THE PIPETS ARE SUCKING IT UP (hah).

  But seriously, what does this mean for women? Narrowing that down to things near and dear to me, what does that mean for an early-career woman scientist? Well, first it made me want to ask for a raise. In fact, I'm going to schedule that conversation with my post-doc advisor. And it also made me think about future job offers. I've learned that especially for tenure-track positions, negotiating is part of the expected back-and-forth between a potential hire and a department. Along with salary, start-up costs, student workers, and spousal hires are on the table, and it seems like you've got to play hard-to-get (here's a post by the must-read The Professor is In). Going into any future job negotiations (and let's hope I'm not indulging in too much wishful thinking) I need to be more aggressive than my baseline personality. Would I go too far to ask what the most recent male hire received? Perhaps I'll just need to take the final offer and divide by 0.8, while citing the Moss-Racusin et al. paper.

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