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Thanks Shirley!

Shirley Malcom and I have been friends since, well I guess forever, and she never ceases to amaze and impress me. (Well she did once but that was in a discussion of thunder thighs that may be best forgotten). Shirley, who by the way is the head of AAAS' Education and Human Resources Programs, testified on the hill last month about--- hmmm I think I will wait and see if you can guess. Yes you guessed right-- broadening participation in STEM.

The testimony was excellent and you probably should read the whole thing. However since I know our lives are a little hectic -- I've put below one section that is near and dear to the hearts of many FairerScience readers:

Women have received a significant proportion of STEM doctorates for well over a decade. Yet they are not appearing among the STEM faculty, especially among leading research institutions, at proportions that should reasonably be expected given their presence in the available pool of candidates; nor are they being retained and advanced in the ranks. Another NSF-funded program has taken on the challenge of addressing these issues. ADVANCE has focused on the institution-specific challenges of understanding and affecting the policies and processes that govern identifying, recruiting, hiring and promoting faculty as well as the system impediments that often lead to the loss of talented women faculty. These would include issues such as: parental leave and “stop the clock” policies; spousal/partner hires; transparency of the requirements for promotion and tenure and so on. Many of the obstacles relate to the desire for women (and men) to be able to integrate the personal/family and career aspects of their lives.

Recent Nobel Laureates Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider addressed these issues directly in interviews after the announcement of their award as they talked about the need for institutions to reconsider the male models upon which the job expectations of STEM faculty are based; e.g., to consider part-time (as well as part-time tenure track) and other more flexible arrangements. This is not an issue of being able or “good enough” to do the science. And separating the aspects of careers that are necessary and those that are simply “tradition” has been a critical component of department and institutional reviews and responses.

Congress needed to hear this (as do many others). Thanks Shirley!


Actually, I've been arguing that all the focus on family-related issues masks the really insidious sexism that affects all women, with or without children. So while I'm glad to see any opportunities to point out the disparities, I think we're squandering the dialogue talking about mechanics of parental leave policies.

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