This Just In: Pipeline Broken Before First R01

I saw this article by Ley & Hamilton in Science today on The Gender Gap on NIH Grant Applications. I’m delighted to see some actual numbers on this… finally.  I found several points interesting…

First- from figure 1, it’s pretty clear that in the last 10 years, over 40% of medical students and instructors in medical schools are women.  This appears to reach 50%(or better judging by the 2007 actual numbers on the right of the figure) in the last three or so years. So- for all of you out there that have argued with me on this blog and in comments on other blogs that there is no shortage of women in science- you are right in that there is parity for women at the lowest possible rungs on this ladder. I have always conceded that point.

But hey- we haven’t gone beyond personal anecdotes before at the higher rungs of the ladder, check out the orange (assistant professor), pink (associate professor) and blue (full professor- and Holy cow- this one is just the worst) lines on figure 1, and have a look at the actual numbers for 2007 on the right of the figure.  Yes the numbers of women at all levels are rising slowly- and that rate appears to reflect the rate at which the number of women in medical school is rising. But would you look at the drop in the participation of women at the ranks of Assistant Professor and beyond.   This sucks, it gets worse as one moves up the ladder of academic rank- and it doesn’t appear to be changing much at all.  Just look at Full Professor- we all know this- but there is nothing like the data to show it. So, for those of you that say the playing field is level for women at everything from Assistant Professor and beyond- I say- I think here you’ve got the data in color.

Second- the authors now looked at the level of grant applications and success for men and women across various types of grants in figure 2. The authors break down this data by degree type- which I thought was really useful but the trends tend to hold across these groups.  There is a huge drop in the number of women applying for career awards or their first R01 as compared to men,  the type of grant for which this happens depends on the degree of the applicant- but these are all transition to independence, or independent investigator type awards. This transition is where we are losing women big-time. Not big news to me, but some people want to see the numbers and I agree that this is critical.  Are we losing women here because when they apply they are not getting grants? No, it seems that rate of funding for the first R01 for men and women is pretty close- it’s that women are leaving the pipeline without even applying.

Third- what was jarringly shocking to me is that not all experienced investigators are created equal in their ability to get R01s as an experienced investigator- and if you are a woman YOUR GENDER WORKS AGAINST YOU. I’d spend more time looking at figure 3, but it is just to damn depressing.

And finally- I quote directly from the last paragraph of the article itself… pretty much sums it up… I think.

Women make up an ever-increasing fraction of the students who train to become biomedical scientists, but their career attrition is disproportionate to that of men. If these trends continue, this country will probably experience a shortage of biomedical scientists in the near future. We therefore hope that these data will provide an impetus for the NIH and academic leaders to develop more effective strategies to retain women at the critical juncture between postdoctoral training and independent careers. The attrition of women from this career path represents a critical loss of intellectual capital for all of biomedical research. Women are equally prepared for careers in the biomedical sciences, and they are successful at obtaining NIH grants at all career stages; their potential for great contributions to biomedical science cannot be wasted.

How are we, the tribe of science, going to address this one…what ‘effective strategies’ can we think of to keep women in the pipeline at the ‘critical juncture between postdoctoral training and independent careers’???

60 thoughts on “This Just In: Pipeline Broken Before First R01

  1. Hmmm … very, very interesting indeed and glad to see these data getting an airing in one of the Glamor Magz. Quite ironic that it was written by two guys (DrugMonkey: did you have a hand in this!?).

    I guess my responses to these data would be (1) why is this trend occurring and (2) what can/should be done to address this issue? Should the NIH introduce grant mechanisms specifically for female PIs similar to minority scholarships or would that spur anti-female sentiments by male PIs? Are these data a reflection of a systematic bias or is the quality of the science simply lower in grants submitted by women? Are women getting less institutional support thus impacting on the ability to prepare and refine grants that will be competitive within their field?

  2. One extremely touchy issue is what happens to some women when they have kids and find that their partner/husband/family expects Mom to be THE primary care giver – exhausting and potentially career crushing. There is a lot that goes into this and it is highly personal. But for the women who want to be Moms, this must change. Ideas?

  3. The one thing that’s unclear to me–clearly women aren’t applying for R01s. Is that because they never applied to (or received) junior faculty positions? That seems like the most obvious explanation.

    In which case, the pipeline is broken at the same place we thought it was–the postdoc to PI transition. As I’m looking at it in my own future, it’s a scary leap. Why not bump up the funding of the K99/R00 program? In theory, if we have enough female postdocs around, perhaps that type of grant will give them greater confidence in setting up their own shop–because they get to apply from the relatively sheltered postdoc position, but use the money to transition to being a big kid.

    I would LOVE to see data on what the apply/accept rate is for K99/R00 (Arlenna, maybe some knowledge?) for women and men. If women do apply for it at higher rate than for R01, then maybe more transitional grants are part of the answer?

  4. I’d spend more time looking at figure 3, but it is just to damn depressing.

    Figure 3 is just a reflection of figure 2. There are two take home messages from this study:

    1) fewer women are applying for R01s than men, even though the potential pool of applicants (at the postdoctoral level as indicated by K-series applicants) is roughly equivalently gendered.

    2) the success rates for those who *are* applying for R01s is essentially identical regardless of gender.

    Figure 3 is just a reflection of fewer female applicants.

    My guess is that the women are lost at the hiring-new-assistant professor stage.

    Here’s my hypothesis: *married* (or equivalent) women are under-applying for faculty positions, relative to both unmarried women and all men.

    I’ve seen this pattern twice here: a married man and woman, both with Ph.Ds from the same institution, both that did post-doctoral training as the same institution, get crushed up against the two-body-problem when they hit the rate limiting step in academic advancement: the post-doctoral / assistant professor transition. They either imagine or perceive that it will impossible for them both to make this leap, so they focus on getting an assistant professorship for the man, and the woman then becomes a post-doc (super-doc?) in his new lab. The first time I saw this I was very surprised. The second time I saw this happen, I started to wonder if this was typical.

    This pattern makes some sense as a success strategy. As a new assistant professor, having your spouse (either man or woman) be a super-well-trained, hyper-motivated post-doctoral lab coordinator is an incredible asset to have over the other assistant professors starting from scratch with no trained and motivated staff of any kind. The non-PI in this team gains the flexibility to set whatever hours they want or to walk away for months or years if desired, for example, to raise kids. Is this a bad arrangement? I don’t know. If new assistant professor is such a difficult job that it takes two people to do it, maybe this is a good idea.

  5. Whimple’s “super-doc” scenario is very similar to the arrangement that I dream of for me and Dr DGT, were he ever to be fortunate enough to end up in a TT position, making me his lab manager/scientist. Many people (myself & my husband included) are much more willing to make sacrifices on the career front in order to live in the same place, rather than each of us working in the best possible job but living in different cities. I know his first choice for a post-doc lab was on the West coast, but he found another good lab here instead so we could stay put.

    Can anybody argue that two motivated, hard-working people wouldn’t be a huge advantage to start a lab? Succeeding together is better than struggling separately, IMHO.

  6. I was very disappointed by the article. Didn’t we know all this already?

    Also, the way it was written up irked me. A statistically significant difference (albeit a modest ~4%) between the success rates for some subsections of men and women = “essentially equivilent success”? The career is hard enough that 4% matters.
    Moreover, the career is competitive enough you aren’t going to win any converts saying “Oh noes! This means we won’t have enough scientists!”

  7. Dr. J- Yeah- hard to know (no R01 application because no jr. faculty position, or vice versa)… good question. But- I will say that even from non-tenure track positions you are eligible to write grants- I don’t know about ‘instructor’ type positions though.

    Whimple ‘My guess is that the women are lost at the hiring-new-assistant professor stage.’ Yeah- sure- but that doesn’t explain the attrition that goes on in those that do take assistant professor positions … that keeps them from reaching full professor.

    I too have seen the 1 partner leads the other partner follows and works in the lab of partner #1. I don’t know how frequent this is though.

    DGT- Although I love DrMrA, I’m not sure I could be his employee. I’m sure that works for some couples- but I can’t see it working for everyone.

    becca- I knew this already, you probably knew this already – but you would be shocked to know that there are lots of senior (mostly male) faculty that look at the younger generation and think everything is equal all of a sudden and there are no biases anywhere, despite the fact that there are no senior women around them to speak of. I think people need to be reminded, over and over again if need be.

    Also- I think the people that do think about this as a problem don’t think about it hard enough to really come up with some creative approaches to fix the problem. After all, I don’t just want to keep rehashing the problem- I want it to get fixed… one small approach at a time.

    And finally- as for small percentage differences- I do think this is a big deal- and I disagree with the authors that these small percentage differences equal ‘equivalent success’. Why? Because we know that there isn’t just one major factor to blame for women not rising up the ranks in academia. We know that the lack of the rise of women at equivalent rates to men is due to a mountain of small differences at lots of different steps (you’ve probably read Virginia Valian’s excellent book)…

  8. Thanks for picking this up drdrA. Nice post.

    I tend to agree that even a few percentage points difference in success rate can be a significant contributor to the thousand cuts. There is also a little bit of obscuring of interpretation because of anything the IC staff do to even up differences that emerge from study section. Have to look at the scores for that.

    I can’t help but think if one were to advocate a 4% consistent “insignificant” edge in favor of women (an adjustment easily done at the IC level) there would be a deafening outcry….

  9. Has it been established whether the women’s grants are funded, in the aggregate, 4% less than the men’s grants, because the women are being marked down because they are women, or because by study section metrics, their grants tend to be less competitive? Obama’s resurrection of Lawrence Summers’ career makes me raise this issue. ;-)

  10. Whimple- I’m going to preface this by saying- I like you, you know I do. And I appreciate all your comments on this blog- so keep em coming.

    But WTF? ‘4% less than the mens grants, because the women are being marked down because they are women, or because by study section metrics, their grants tend to be less competitive?’

    I find it difficult to believe that womens applications are less competitive than those of the men at any career stage. You should note that this gap remains (albeit at a smaller level) into the experienced investigator category – where a 2% difference in favor of men remains. It would be difficult to argue that the applications of senior women are of lesser quality than those of senior men. It would be difficult to argue that women who are hired for tenure track positions are of lesser quality than their male counterparts.

    Are women perceived to be lesser quality, and are perceived to have lesser quality proposals by the people who evaluate these things, probably. Does that mean they really and truly are lesser quality. The answer to that is NO- the biases (many times gender based and not applied consciously) of the evaluators must be taken into account.

    I refer you to the following article: Sex, Schemas and Success, what’s keeping women back? by Virginia Valian- available on her website : http://maxweber.hunter.cuny.edu/psych/faculty/valian/valian.htm

    under the category of ‘Representative papers and chapters on gender’.

  11. I’m a little uncertain about who who is being tracked in this study. It starts out by talking about the proportion of women enrolled in biomedical programs in the US, but there is no mention of the huge injection of foreign students and workers and grad and postdoc levels (isn’t it something like 50-60 for postdocs now?). Does anybody know what the gender makeup of foreign postdocs is, and what proportion are remaining in the US and transitioning to independence?

  12. I am sick sick of this discussion, because we have it over and over again, and nothing ever changes. I think part of the problem is what Drugmonkey said recently in one of his posts — people in power protect the status quo that put them in power. But, I think the other part of the problem is that those who care about the leak haven’t figured out the *one* or *two* things that they can advocate for that can be implemented by a public agency, for example, and fought for them. My current goal is “on-ramp” post-doctoral fellowships for people who have left science for a period of time. I aim for this to allow people to extend the post-doc/period for child-bearing, and still bump back on the track. I’m not sure it will work, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

    Regarding whimple’s comments, and others, my current cite is the work of John Dovidio, at Yale, which I discovered through Nicholas Kristof’s column: “Racism without racists.”

    OPINION | October 5, 2008
    Op-Ed Columnist: Racism Without Racists
    By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

    “White participants recommend hiring a white applicant with borderline qualifications 76 percent of the time, while recommending an identically qualified black applicant only 45 percent of the time.” (and these are experiments, done with identical resumes, with the race of the applicant changed).

    I think we’re never going to prove that there’s bias in individual cases,, because once we’ve gotten rid of overt discrimination, what remains is bias, bias that plays out in borderline/ambiguous situations. Kristof talks of bias with respect to race, but I think the problem is more general, including gender, but also including biases that include any characteristics that deviate from the standard (i.e. the standard defined by the current status quo).

    How do we fix the problem? It’s really really hard, ’cause it can’t be as simple as subtracting 15% from whites and adding 15% to the blacks (in the scenario above)– because that would be unfair, applied to the individual. The biases are powerful and difficult to disrupt (though there is some work now in social psych on how one might disrupt these biases), so just telling people doesn’t fix the situation. And, once the decision is made, people try to pick evidence that confirms their decision (so that their decision can be justified post-hoc).

  13. Neurolover-

    I’m fatigued too- I WANT THIS FIXED AND I WANT IT FIXED YESTERDAY.

    But- I think I have to continue to talk about the problem, if my allies are going to be spurred to do anything about it- and perhaps through this conversation people who care about this issue (which should be all of us frankly) will be spurred to think of those one or two things that you mention above- that they can advocate for.

    I would love to start a list somewhere on this blog – for ideas that people have for changing the status quo. Some of the people who read this blog who know the system well, should be able to identify points where stepwise intervention and change are possible…

    I’m waiting on y’all…

  14. thanks for posting this, as a grad student it puts numbers and an actual trendline on the perceived lack of women in science. wow, i had to link this so others can see it.

  15. drdrA: I’m just playing: I don’t think there’s a real difference in the abilities of women and men with respect to grant writing, but Lawrence Summers, our new incoming director of the White House National Economic Council, former president of Harvard, and Clinton’s old Secretary of the Treasury sure does (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Summers).

    Really, with the funding difference between men and women being 4% and such a huge number of men and women applying, I don’t know why the NIH just doesn’t flat out declare men and women are mathematically equal and boost up (or chop down if needed) the scores of the women to make the percentages of women and men funded be exactly the same.

  16. As an undergrad majoring in neuroscience who will earn a PhD degree in neuroscience in 7 years (2 more years of undergrad – I’m on the 5-year plan – and an average of 5 years of grad school), I can maybe give a personal look on this issue.

    Personally, I don’t want children, don’t want a spouse, and am devoting my life to my career. I am not a family person. There will be no children or spouse to eat into my time, because I do not want to give birth to an unwanted child or pollute this world with one more hungry mouth or spend ridiculous amounts of time on what look to me like frighteningly miserable menial vomit-ridden labor or make some poor sap miserable because I will absolutely not pay very much attention to him or her and make it difficult for them to have a relationship with another person if they so choose, and it doesn’t matter if s/he (I am pansexual) is the most egalitarian person in the world; also, if I ever wanted to get married, I’d get married to a fellow PhD. As I said, I am not a family person.

    At the same time, some of my fellow female scientists have families or are planning to have a family, and I do not think they ought to be hindered from having one and their research should not be hindered by one. There ought to be ample resources for childcare; there ought to be more ways for pregnant female scientists to be able to carry on research while they are pregnant (development of new technology the researcher can use to not harm her fetus, for example, physical protection around the abdomen and establishment of upper limits for exposure to certain radioactive substances – the technology is available to protect women from chemical exposure, it may just be too expensive – in which case, the technology needs to be made cheaper.) I have heard from graduate students in my department that there are cases where women have lost their jobs because their pregnancies have prevented them from doing work or they while not pregnant have been told not to do work because they might get pregnant (aren’t men’s gonads just as much at risk if not more because testicles are outside the body cavity? Oh, that’s right, men are EXPENDABLE and women are PRECIOUS and have EGGS. Shit, folks, don’t we have enough people on the planet?)

    Also, sexism is stupid. One amusing example – there are scantily clad women in men’s magazines, but no scantily clad men in women’s magazines. If we’re going to hypersexualize people, at least we need to be egalitarian about it.

  17. whimple- This is what I have to say about Mr. Summers… @!!!?%$@!!!
    I could borrow some physioprof language but I’m trying to clean up my act… at which I may or may not be successful…

    And- I’m taking the second part of your email as a serious suggestion…

    Kristin and Katharine- Welcome- and thanks for participating in this discussion. It is important to me that you younger generation know the score up front, learn the system, live outside the silo of the way things are today and come up with some ways to change your immediate environment for the better. Katharine- you especially are at an institution that has faculty that are very active in this area. You should send me an email if you are interested in who those faculty might be.

  18. Hm, seems pretty obvious to me: women are not getting the assistant professorships, and therefore not applying for R01’s.
    In addition, I believe many female senior postdocs (non-TT research faculty) perhaps don’t realize they CAN apply for R01’s, don’t have the confidence to apply for R01’s, or are actively discouraged from applying for their own R01’s by their mentors.
    What I would like to see are the numbers on TT faculty recruitment: what fraction of these job applicants are women (anecdotally, I think small)? What is their success rate (unknown)? How many are offered jobs, only to turn them down due to spousal issues (anecdotally, i know of several)? Given the discrepancy in the # R01 applications, and the greater emphasis on having funding to even get a TT position, I think the proportion of woman Asst. Profs is going to actually decrease. Job recruitment numbers will be much harder to come by…

  19. DrDrA,
    Once again a very thought-provoking post. Here’s an idea to add to your list. About two years ago at my institution they instituted a new rule for TT faculty. Any (women and men) who have children during the assist prof years automatically have a year added to their tenure clock. It’s too early to know how much this helps here, but I would be surprised if it didn’t help some. This should be universal. (Maybe it’s common, but if so I’m not aware of it.)

    Of course there is the possibility of extending tenure indefinitely this way… :-)

  20. I wish I could find the link, but I saw some tables a few weeks ago that gave the rundown of gender and NSF funding. The thing that jumped out at me for the BIO section was that men and women were funded about the same, in terms of NUMBER of funded proposals. The difference was in the AMOUNT. I think I remember 30k being the difference. That’s equal to 2 grad student salaries! So, 2 *productive* grad students extra for the men = more papers.

    I think alot of postdoc women don’t apply for grants because 1) we don’t want to put Grand Puumba Jerks on as PIs for the project even to have a chance at being funded and then we gotta put up with their crap if it IS funded and 2) we are playing catch-up in publications to the boys’ club members (who seem to get their damn names as author for adding a sentence to a paper or being invited on a paper because of association with a head honcho) so that we can be slightly more competitive for TT jobs. We have enough crap to do to catch up without having to pile on writing proposals to the mess.

    Yes, I do agree that we will see a serious drop in number of female asst profs over the next ten years – we just are fed up.

  21. “I would LOVE to see data on what the apply/accept rate is for K99/R00 (Arlenna, maybe some knowledge?) for women and men. If women do apply for it at higher rate than for R01, then maybe more transitional grants are part of the answer?”

    I don’t know Dr. J/H, but that’s a good question. I’ll have to look into it and see if I can find any useful information about that.

    I am at home and our e-journals don’t work very well from here, but I will look at this article tomorrow.

  22. This is what struck me most:
    “If these trends continue, this country will probably experience a shortage of biomedical scientists in the near future.”

    Hasn’t this been the warning umm since the beginning of the cold war?
    Then why the hell can’t most postdocs at Harvard Caltech et al find permanent?

  23. jc wrote:
    I wish I could find the link, but I saw some tables a few weeks ago that gave the rundown of gender and NSF funding. The thing that jumped out at me for the BIO section was that men and women were funded about the same, in terms of NUMBER of funded proposals. The difference was in the AMOUNT. I think I remember 30k being the difference. That’s equal to 2 grad student salaries! So, 2 *productive* grad students extra for the men = more papers.

    I couldn’t find those statistics, but there are some interesting NSF stats in a pdf called “Impact of Proposal and Award Management Mechanisms Final Report” at http://dellweb.bfa.nsf.gov/starth.asp. I just found these and need to have a good look. Looks like the award success rates for men and women are pretty much the same (higher for women new investigators!), but the percentage of proposals from women is very low.

    And jc, you guys pay your grad students only $15k???? Boy are they being screwed…

  24. Neurowoman- You bring up a good point about hiring- but I’m guessing (and its really just a guess) that many woman drop out at that transition without applying anywhere. Seeing the lifestyle, culture, lack of role models, and low probability of success etc and not wanting to go there.

    Odyssey- For the tenure clock stoppage- its a small step. I would argue that it should be accompanied by some sort of recognition at grant funding agencies that time has been taken off for a family matter. The tenure clock can stop but the NIH productivity clock doesn’t stop simultaneously- this is a BIG problem, because as you know one depends on the other.

    jc- Really EXCELLENT point, and one totally ignored in that article- In negotiations in general, women tend to ask for less than their male counterparts. I see no reason a priori to think that grant budgets are any different. For NIH I believe this information is publicly available- one can go in and look at the PI and the $$ amount that was awarded- then you would have to probably narrow this by a couple of other criteria (career stage maybe) to get an accurate view of $$ awarded men vs. women per grant at the same stage. It would be a bit of work but it could be done.

  25. (1) 4% here, 4% there, and since these percentages compound, the next thing you know, you’re looking at big differences.

    (2) Money needs to spent on motherfucking CHILD CARE, so that both parents with young children can devote a full measure of professional energy to their careers.

    (3) Men need to not rely on their wives/girlfriends/whatever as baby nurses, nannies, cooks, laundresses, etc.

  26. Money needs to spent on motherfucking CHILD CARE, so that both parents with young children can devote a full measure of professional energy to their careers.

    This statement makes me think you don’t have kids. If you have kids, you know that it is IMPOSSIBLE to devote a “full measure of professional energy” to your career, relative to people with no kids, even if you do have excellent childcare. Without excellent childcare, you don’t have a career, so the measure of professional energy is irrelevant.

  27. “If these trends continue, this country will probably experience a shortage of biomedical scientists in the near future.”

    The US is already up the creek without a rudder in terms of recruiting biomedical scientists (although it isn’t a lack of PIs that is the problem). It’ll just take some time to become apparent, which will probably be about the time China gets its fledgling research infrastructure up to speed and is no longer exporting workers, but actively competing to import them.

    IMHO, a lot of the problems of the labour structure is US academic research is due to a wayward perspective summarized by the following oft repeated, but utterly wrongheaded, canard:

    “There are too many postdocs and not enough PIs!”

    The market-driven reality is that there are not enough postdocs and, arguably, too many PIs (I know a couple of newly minted junior faculty struggling to compete in the recruitment of postdocs period, let alone good ones). In industry, this would be considered a normal healthy aspect of a hierarchy set on a multitiered pyramid structure. Unless we lay to rest the idea that the career structure in academia is represented only by a single, neat linear line between grad to PI, we cannot hope to adapt the financial structure accordingly.

  28. Bingo Odyssey – http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2007/nsf0745/nsf0745.pdf shows the tallies of men vs women proposals on page 30, table 4. I LOVE the pink shading!! The funding rates being equal (except for minorities) is on page 19, Figure 13

    Similar patterns seen here: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2008/nsb0847_merit_review_2007.pdf Figure 2, page 7.

    I’ll dig through my browing history tomorrow to see if I can find the award amount difference table page – if anyone can find that, it would be good to show for this discussion.

  29. This isn’t the NSF report I previously read, but it has funding rates and amounts by gender, and… big shocker here…

    MASSIVE gender gap with the NIH numbers – dear GOD! http://chronicle.com/extras/2005/09/TR307.pdf see page 46, table 3.4
    So, 1.2 million for women, 1.8 million for men average award amount.
    Lesson for the ladies: INCREASE YOUR BUDGET, BIG TIME. Don’t be stingy. Add another zero.

  30. Ideas for changing the status quo:

    At our institution we have money set aside for an annual seminar series which showcases indigenous scientists, usually about 4 a year. These seminars are aimed primarily at rolemodelling for our indigenous students. Thus although they are open to all, we publicise them through different channels eg through indigenous networks on campus. Audiences usually are half to two-thirds indigenous science under grads and postgraduates, a quarter indigenous people in other disciplines/work, and about a quarter various assorted people with an interest in the topic. We also shoulder tap indigenous postgrad students (around 4-6)to come and have lunch with the speaker, so they have time and opportunity to chat, ask questions etc. Its a small step, but it works to inspire our students.

    Maybe something similar for women in sciences?

    As for improved childcare – I think the problem is much bigger than just that. See for example:

    Nature 455, 1029 (23 October 2008) Childcare not enough to make a science career family-friendly. Timothy J. Roper1 & Larissa Conradt which states:

    In our experience, the predominant reason why women drop out of scientific careers is that it is virtually impossible to combine climbing the postdoctoral ladder with having children. Provision of better childcare facilities is helpful. But it is by no means sufficient, as most women who want children also want to play some part in bringing them up.

    The career structure for young scientists must be made more family-friendly. This means, for example, making part-time work a real possibility, emphasizing quality rather than quantity of output, and taking career breaks properly into account when judging candidates for appointments and promotions. . . .

    If these quality-of-life issues are not addressed, then initiatives aimed at bringing more women into science are to a large extent pointless, and brave words about equal opportunities are mere window dressing.

  31. “The market-driven reality is that there are not enough postdocs and, arguably, too many PIs”
    So perhaps its good that women aren’t applying for PI positions and instead working as low paid “research scientists” in someone elses (often their husband’s) lab.

  32. So many of you have made suggestions- I’m going to collect them all in list… eventually- … because brainstorming for small, incremental fixes is the first step to putting them into practice!

    Keep them coming!

  33. I posted this over at DMs place (in the middle of the shitstorm) without realizing that there is an actual insightful discussion going on over here:
    think that NIH (or whatever federal funding agency) should demand to see salaries for men and women in equivalent stages of promotion advancement at individual institutions. If you have inequity in salaries between men and women, your institution likely has an endemic problem. If you don’t fix it, no more funding, end of story.

    Does anyone know if such a thing has ever been put into practice before?

  34. I’m not going to read all the comments, but I want to respond to PiTs because I think she outlined the relevant questions very well (but didn’t answer them):

    (1) why is this trend occurring and (2) what can/should be done to address this issue? Should the NIH introduce grant mechanisms specifically for female PIs similar to minority scholarships or would that spur anti-female sentiments by male PIs? Are these data a reflection of a systematic bias or is the quality of the science simply lower in grants submitted by women? Are women getting less institutional support thus impacting on the ability to prepare and refine grants that will be competitive within their field?

    1. BECAUSE OF SEXISM and also because the system is just generally fucked up, women just tend to get fed up sooner because we have to deal with sexism on top of it.

    2. What can be done. Female-specific grants = NO.

    Are these data a reflection of systematic bias = YES.

    And frankly, if you suggest otherwise, you have some serious self-hate you need to deal with, accusing women of doing generally lower quality science. Are you fucking kidding?? Most women I know are at least ten times better than their male peers. And their grants are, too.

    There is no other explanation, then, unless you want to split hairs about the meaning of systematic. Is it unconscious bias? Quite possibly. Is it still systematic if it’s endemic to the system and there are no safeguards in place to prevent personal bias from interfering with the review of the science? YES.

    3. Are women getting less institutional support? ABSOLUTELY.

    You wanna know why we quit? READ MY BLOG.

    I know, I know, you might think I’m a nutjob loser. You know what? I get a LOT of comments from people who write in and say they feel JUST LIKE I DO.

  35. oh and ps. Whimple, anyone, did any of us really think CPP had kids?

    Yeesh, with a potty mouth like that, I would tend to doubt it.

    However, the point you made about having kids even with excellent childcare would be considered quite controversial in some circles.

  36. I agree with both CPP (with a couple of additions to his points) and with Whimple.
    I think spending more money on/creating more resources for childcare is an essential part of the solution but by no means the only one.
    Men need to not rely on their SOs to be nannies/cooks/laundresses etc–yes, let’s not leave unstated something that is implicit in that concept—-men need to step up to the plate and actively contribute to being nannies/cooks/cleaners/launderers.
    Finally, a lot more men need to be willing to be ‘trailing spouses’ should the possibility/opportunity arise during job hunts.

  37. Juniorprof- Thanks for joining the discussion- you always have valuable things to say!

    I don’t know if what you refer to has been put into practice- I think it is an awesome idea. I’m going to start keeping a list of these suggestions somewhere on this site because you just never know when you are going to be in the same room with people in power … and it is good to have such suggestions handy. I will get to this right after I finish about 3 urgent things…!

    MsPhD-

    I know you’ve been blogging for a while… and while I’d love to read all your entries- it might help me if you could give me a short list from your collected experience and those of your readers- why you all want to quit academic science. … like maybe solidify the top 5 reasons…for me…

  38. I think we should make a list — I’m less interested in data gathering, though, and more interested in figuring out ways to change things. As with global warming, I find that the endless desire to analyze the data distracts from addressing the result.

    Until recently, the “it takes time” argument had some validity. But, now, women are entering, but then being drained from the pipeline. The NYtimes article talking about the plans of women at Yale was terrible (the one that said that the non-randomly surveyed college women at Yale said they planned on stopping working when they planned to have children, in about 8 years), but, I am starting to see this change in younger women. I thought that the balancing would be manageable when I was in college, but the younger women, some of them, are deciding that it’s not manageable. So, I’m actually expecting to see a change in entry to the pipeline as the reality sinks in. Then, we’d have to do even more to reverse that trend.

  39. “If you have kids, you know that it is IMPOSSIBLE to devote a “full measure of professional energy” to your career, relative to people with no kids, even if you do have excellent childcare.”

    Yes. Yes. Subsidized, convenient, and palatable childcare choices involving extended hour availability would be a GoodThing, no doubt about that, but mainly of use for stemming the leaks from the pipeline at the undergraduate, graduate, and early postdoc stages. The Ley and Hamilton analyses show that the greater problem in the pipeline is at the transition to independence and beyond. At the junior faculty stage, my own experience is that affordability of childcare is finally no longer a major factor in my lifestyle choices: I am dissatisfied with my choices, but not for lack of money. I consider myself lucky to be in a marriage with equal sharing of both childcare and domestic responsibilities, but neither my husband nor I (both assistant profs) have nearly enough hours in the day for our research programs, our kids, or each other. On bad days I find myself rather bitter about the first six weeks of my second daughter’s life, which I spend writing my first R01 while the nanny (hired before the birth) got to hold the baby. Needless to say, the grant was not funded, and two years later I am still churning revisions. The baby months, though, they are gone forever. I can’t really say I blame the women (or men) who decide it is all not worth it to even apply for the TT positions in the first place. Science is competitive, moreso at the faculty level than at the postdoctoral level, and those of us who choose to become parents (presumably because we want to spend time being parents!) will always be at a career disadvantage at least in terms of sheer hours to spend working, by comparison with the guy or gal without kids in the next office/lab.

  40. Neurolover- I’m all about a list of potential small steps that can be taken as part of a solution. That way when Dr. Vivian Pinn (head of the Office of Research on Women’s Health in the Office of the Director at NIH, who coincidentally was co-chairing a task force on increasing the # of women scientists- I believe) visits your university you will have ready a list of small steps that can be taken at many levels including the NIH level- to improve things.

    As an aside- this actually did happen to me. She actually did visit my institution, and we actually did have a conversation in which I made a suggestion she took very seriously- and she followed up with me, which I appreciated very much. Whether that will translate into a real change or not- I have no idea.

    My point is simply- the chances of these things happening aren’t as remote as they might seem at the first approximation, and these people despite very hefty titles- are often very approachable people if you have a bit of guts and have done your homework.

  41. “On bad days I find myself rather bitter about the first six weeks of my second daughter’s life, which I spend writing my first R01 while the nanny (hired before the birth) got to hold the baby. Needless to say, the grant was not funded, and two years later I am still churning revisions. The baby months, though, they are gone forever.”

    Yes, and stories like this (as well as an alternative, where you spend the first six weeks holding your baby, and don’t write the RO1 grant, and people complain that you’re not dedicated enough to the work, and you never get the RO1, and then are denied tenure) freak people out of even trying. What’s more, when young women hear that story, they find it hard to decide to forgo the baby holding (an immediate reward), write the grant (with the high risk, that they won’t get it), and we end up back with people thinking that the risks are too high to go for the RO1/tenured position.

  42. OK, OK, I see that sharing my “bad day” regrets could indeed discourage young women from even trying to make the jump to independence, and for the sake of honesty, I should publicly admit that on the better days, I am thrilled to be spending my time pursuing the intellectual development of my own ideas, with essentially no meddling from or accountability to an immediate supervisor, and even making a very good salary for the privilege! I guess that a responsibility lies with us (young female junior faculty): we are role models and mentors to the next generation, and we need to tell the good along with the bad. As a postdoc, I did not have the luxury of deciding for myself how long my maternity leave would be with my first child — my advisor gave me six weeks. Period. Nor did I have the luxury of considering hiring a nanny — it was economically unfeasible. At least in my faculty job, I am making my own choices, even though there are admittedly many trade-offs and often none of the options seem totally ideal.

  43. Crystaldoc;

    I didn’t actually mean to criticize you. I always counsel people not to give up anything really important to them in pursuit of the TT job, or the next paper, or the next grant, because those are all high risk rewards. “Really important” is really a determination for everyone to make for themselves.

    We do need to point out the good stuff, and I thank you for doing so: “I am thrilled to be spending my time pursuing the intellectual development of my own ideas, with essentially no meddling from or accountability to an immediate supervisor, and even making a very good salary for the privilege!” This is the really thrilling reason why so many persevere, and we need to remind people how amazing it is, when people get to do it.

    It’s also important to point out that there’s no magic bullet (i.e. childcare, or tenure clock extensions, or on ramps) that will equalize the playing field. The question is which of these will prevent the leak from growing into a flood that means that women leave (and even no longer enter) science. I in fact find it a bit frustrating that the one young ‘un who has posted presumes that she will be able to balance because she plans on not having children, putting herself into a pretty small minority of women.

  44. DrDrA,

    I’m moving to here in response to our discussion on the DrugMonkey’s blog.

    I disagree with your and Ley and Hamilton’s interpretation of the data. In their discussion, Ley and Hamilton state, “Although some female career attrition could be due to cohort effects (i.e., smaller numbers of female graduate students in the past, leading to smaller numbers at advanced career stages at this time) the effects that we describe here occur in a very narrow time frame and are far too large to be totally explained by this phenomenon. Instead, the data strongly suggest that a large fraction of women are choosing to leave the NIH-funded career pipeline at the transition to independence (i.e., in the late postdoctoral and early faculty years).”

    I don’t think the effects they describe (a difference of 2-4% difference in funding rates between men and women RO1 applicants) are “too large” to be explained by cohort effects. Figure one seems to say it all for me. It takes about 10 years for an increase in female graduate school enrollment to have roughly the same effects on assistant professorships, and another 10 years to affect associate professors, and another for full professors. Also take into account industry research blossomed in these years (1996-2007) a which will account for some academic attrition (although I would not call this attrition. I suspect you’d see the same trends of “attrition” for men if they care to look). The additional reality that many women will chose to leave the work force and raise children. I suppose this might be “attrition” but then again, it is their choice, and a slight misrepresentation should not always be viewed as misogyny.

    As an aside, figure 3 is grossly misleading. Putting labels only on one sample group gives the impression that “30%” means 30% of the other group, not 30% on their own, vs 33% in the other group, which is twice as large. It’s really an effect of sample size, not necessarily sexism. Although, I would not doubt any anecdotal sexism within academics… sorry to write so much.

  45. What I find hilarious is the fact that most of the talking about people’s offspring comes up more among women than men.

    Consciously deciding to completely buck gender roles would help. I don’t like the idea of people having a ‘gender’. When’s the last time a woman took a tenure track position while her husband took an adjunct position? When’s the last time you told a sexist something polite that had a meaning along the lines of ‘Hey, needledick, make me a sandwich, apparently you’re so incompetent and insecure about a woman having any authority over you in any particular situation that I bet all your wife probably thinks you are is a mobile dildo’ just to shove his prejudice back in his face (note – I am not advocating misandry, I am saying one might tell this to a misogynist man – I still haven’t thought of anything properly barbed to hurl at misogynist women).

    And, yes, more accomodation and more opportunity, as well, for women who don’t want children to make it clear to labs that they want to get into that they do not want children and are not planning to have any and are adequately protected from having children, in order to avoid bias that might be directed at women that want children. Bias directed at women that want children can be further fixed by much of what you’ve said here.

  46. I think the expression ‘mobile dildo’ might be an interesting expression for a woman to throw at a guy who calls her anything along the lines of ‘cunt’.

  47. Matthew- Thanks for your polite and reasoned criticism, but I have to disagree with you. Yes, we ought to be comparing the cohort with a time delay, e.g., %students in 1997 with %asst prof in 2007 (for argument’s sake, let choose a ten year delay). Students in 1997 : ~45% (eyeballing the graph). Asst Prof in 2007, ~39%. That’s a 5% disparity that can’t be explained by cohort effects. Similar disparities at each transition (student:Asst: Assoc:full) leads to a large disparity. What will happen in the future, as student ratios presumably will plateau (at 50% female? 60% female?). One would hope that given enough time, the curves will converge (50% students->50% asst prof-> 50% assoc, etc.)

    You are incorrect in the statement that “you’d see the same rates of attrition in men” because we’re talking about women:men ratio; as the female proportion goes down, the male proportion goes up! Take figure 1 and flip it up side down. Men go from being ~50% of the students to 60-65% of the Asst Profs, and eventually to >80% of Full profs. proportionally,fewer men leave the pipeline.

    It seems the disparity in R01 grant applications, and total funding is largely an effect of the disparity in eligibility (faculty position). But don’t discount a 2-4% disparity in funding rates – if it is consistent (which it is for experienced R01, look at the supplementary figure 6). Cumulative effects are a bear. And we can’t say from this data why the rates are different. But it is heartening to see parity in funding rates for first-timers.

  48. neurowoman,

    Thanks for the response. You’re right about the the “attrition” compared to men. I made a mistake. Although, I’m still confused as to how they get away with calling it “attrition” when the rates for women are increasing. And, as for a 5% difference between 1997 and 2007, I have to say that I’m underwhelmed by the data. The reason there are increasing disparities at each stage of the pipeline is likely to reflect the graduate school enrollment rates for each cohort. Senior scientists applying for R01 grants went to graduate school in the 1970s. I suspect that there was not a significant boom in female enrollment until the mid 1980s… just a guess. I’m surprised a reviewer didn’t make them look directly at each cohort… and I’m shocked they got away with the labeling in figure 3.

    Alternatively, if there really is an attrition of females in the academic pipeline, it might just be because they’re smarter and taking up higher paying jobs in industry ;)

  49. By the way, supplemental figure 6 just tells me that despite the disparity in number of male to female R01 applicants (due to the disparity of male to female senior faculty), they have the same success rate. If the authors believe this is due to an ineligibility for female faculty positions, why not look at the faculty position application success rates of males and females. Or, if that data is not available, look at graduate school enrollment rates in the 70s and 80s.

  50. “Alternatively, if there really is an attrition of females in the academic pipeline, it might just be because they’re smarter and taking up higher paying jobs in industry ;)”

    I doubt this is the case, and although it might seem flattering in a positive discriminatory manner, this thinking is very much part of the problem. You will sometimes hear the Old Boys appeal to this sort of hypothesis in order to justify the status quo. Very much in the same category as, “There’s no inequality! Women want to stay at home doing the ironing!”.

    In the absence of good data to indicate the contrary, I think it’s best to assume that women are not significantly dafter smarter than we are when it comes to career choice. Thus look to social trends rather than biological ones for the roots of these sorts of issues.

  51. Pingback: Forever on your list of enemies? « Blue Lab Coats

  52. It was a joke. That little winking guy is supposed to indicate sarcasm, not a hypothesis.

    …just trying to keep the mood light. But, for sake of clarity, I’ll keep to the science if that’s easier for everyone.

  53. A study a few years ago showed, among Swedish academics, that women had to publish four to five times as many papers as men to be considered as good (supporting Nellie McClung’s observation that “A woman has to work twice as hard as a man to be thought half as good — luckily, that’s not difficult.”) That’s a huge bias in subjective evaluation. I’m surprised there isn’t more than 4% difference in grant success — perhaps detailed scoring checklists keep people mostly objective?

    One little thing no-one has mentioned: if the grants are substantially smaller for women, then the day-to-day work is probably that much more of draining, depressing, and tiring. Which could lead to drop-out rates.

    An anecdote: I know a brilliant doctoral candidate in the biological sciences. Once she becomes a post-doc, her grant income of $40,000 per year will go down to $15,000. She’s feeling poor. She’s also thinking about having a child while she’s still probably fertile. Perhaps not coincidentally, she has started to consider non-academic careers where she can use her degree and make more than $15,000.

  54. Hello:

    I am collecting examples of candidate credential tampering in connection with established gender imbalances in hiring and promotion that form at the faculty level at major scientific research institutions. Please contribute anonymous but somewhat detailed examples by e-mail to credentampering@aol.com. Thank you.

  55. Pingback: Don’t Be A "Woman In Science" [The Intersection]

  56. Pingback: NIH$$ for Girls < NIH$$ for Boys « Blue Lab Coats

  57. Pingback: Singled Out | The Intersection | Discover Magazine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s