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Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

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Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue May 26, 2015 1:24 pm

Adam Ruben is a popular columnist on ScienceCareers.org. I always read his stuff (and I hope he reads mine). The problem is, I often disagree with him. That's what I read his column. I want to feel some righteous anger!

Here's a clip from his current column. He is obviously referring to discrimination in the hiring of scientists, and I'd love to hear what you think about this. I don't want to hear from people who BELIEVE that there is discrimination in the workforce (just about everyone believes it's out there) . . . instead, I'd like to hear from people who KNOW it is out there. And I'd like to hear why they know this. While this has been a problem in the past, today's employer tries very hard to balance gender, and -- if anything -- they sometimes pass up on the better candidate just to ensure their roster includes both male and female team members. In most searches today, and over the last few years, the company doing the hiring tells the search firm, "We'd like to ensure that we get a diverse range of candidates. We'd love to have a female candidate for this role."

Here's what Adam wrote, taking his usual approach to the subject of "career roadblock:"

ROADBLOCK: No Penis. Though policies are evolving, plenty of scientists are still denied jobs or promotions due to the lack of a clear and unambiguous penis. “Your results are exemplary,” their supervisors enthuse, “and you have truly made strides toward the acquisition and application of knowledge. But can you imagine the increased scientific validity of your results if you had, say, a penis?”


How real is the "old boy's club" issue outside of academia? Personally, I think it is disappearing quickly.

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Re: Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby PG » Tue May 26, 2015 4:03 pm

I am working in molecular biology and the majority of our applicants are females, the majority of our empoyees are females and all my second line managers and project leaders are females. Looking at the European company level 5 out of 8 members of the management team including the CEO are females. When I joined I was the only male in the management group so we have been able to add a few men lately.

In some other companies there is some tendency of a closed club but from my view these clubs seem to be as closed to men without the right connections as they are to females without those contacts.

Statistics for the country show that females have lower representation than should be expected in boards for various companies. This is changing but very slowly and the government is threatening with legislation. If this is actually due to gender or due to clubs that are closed to anyone that isnt a member can be debated.
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Re: Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby Dave Walker » Wed May 27, 2015 10:41 am

I have the same thoughts at PG: if there's an "Old Boys' Club," its last remnants are at the C-suite and Board Member roles of life outside of academia. Elsewhere (in the life sciences industry) it's not apparent. However, the subtleties still may exist, only teased out by data.

I'm short on time now but I'd like to explore the actual numbers behind hiring in the life sciences workforce outside of academia to see if my hunch lines up correctly (or not). Do women there also make 70 cents to every dollar a man earns?

One observation I'd make is that in a research hub like Cambridge MA it seems that much of industry funding comes from what looks like an Old Boys' Club. Venture capitalists, angel investors and leaders of investment companies still project an "it's who you know" mentality, and are mostly older white males as a result. I think this may also be changing, but there seems to be resistance whenever millions of dollars and bold investment moves are at stake, not unlike a mini version of Wall Street.
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Re: Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby D.X. » Thu May 28, 2015 10:31 am

Dave Jensen wrote:
ROADBLOCK: No Penis. Though policies are evolving, plenty of scientists are still denied jobs or promotions due to the lack of a clear and unambiguous penis. “Your results are exemplary,” their supervisors enthuse, “and you have truly made strides toward the acquisition and application of knowledge. But can you imagine the increased scientific validity of your results if you had, say, a penis?”


How real is the "old boy's club" issue outside of academia? Personally, I think it is disappearing quickly.

Dave Jensen, Moderator


Hi. I have been a number of pharmaceutical companies and I have not experienced the old boys club. If anything, the companies I have been in have been very empowering for women - many are in senior management, if not sitting on the board. My +2 is a woman and most of my cross-functional stakeholders are women. Not that today that gender discrimination doesn't exist - it does - but perhaps not in the context as described above.

Most of the gender discrimination against women I have seen (rare) have been more related to fear of an female FTE going on pregnancy leave - but this discrimination in my experiences demonstrated by both male AND female hiring managers. A few times I have seen a female FTE hired irrespective of their last trimester pregnancy status - which was just awesome. The hiring manager knew they would be out but that was not a barrier to them they just knew they had to cover that FTE in other ways until their returned.

So at least from a pharma perspective, I dont' see it. And the company I work for, like many others, have a company supported woman's leadership group comprised of employees, their focus is on ensuring women are represented in leadership functions.

Hope this gave the insight you needed.

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Re: Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu May 28, 2015 10:49 am

D.X. wrote:
So at least from a pharma perspective, I dont' see it. And the company I work for, like many others, have a company supported woman's leadership group comprised of employees, their focus is on ensuring women are represented in leadership functions.

Hope this gave the insight you needed.

DX


Thanks DX. I'm in agreement with posters here . . . The trend in employers is to empower women. They WANT to hire females, and to search firms like mine (CareerTrax Inc), they have specific instructions to go find them, for just about every assignment.

I don't know where Adam gets this. Must either be a holdover from academia, where the problem still exists -- or, perhaps it's just meant to be funny and that's the sole driver.

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Re: Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby RSC » Thu May 28, 2015 1:25 pm

Dave Walker wrote:I have the same thoughts at PG: if there's an "Old Boys' Club," its last remnants are at the C-suite and Board Member roles of life outside of academia. Elsewhere (in the life sciences industry) it's not apparent.


I'm chiming in here to respectfully disagree. I am fully entrenched in "life sciences" academia, and can personally vouch for the fact that the "Old Boys Club" is alive and well. I do basic research, and my particular field is overwhelmingly male dominated. Per the most recent available data (2009), 86.9% of the clinicians in this field are male.

Earlier this month, I presented some of my recent 3-D cell imaging data at an international research conference. After my talk, I was approached by a well known and prominent (male) figure in this field, who expressed surprise that I was able to comprehend my own data, since "generally females are not very good at thinking in three dimensions."

Again, this happened this month, and is just one small example of the "boys club" that I deal with on a daily basis. While perhaps great strides are being made for gender equality overall, in some areas the progress is lagging sorely behind.
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Re: Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby BMK » Thu May 28, 2015 2:55 pm

RSC wrote:
Dave Walker wrote:I have the same thoughts at PG: if there's an "Old Boys' Club," its last remnants are at the C-suite and Board Member roles of life outside of academia. Elsewhere (in the life sciences industry) it's not apparent.


I'm chiming in here to respectfully disagree. I am fully entrenched in "life sciences" academia, and can personally vouch for the fact that the "Old Boys Club" is alive and well. I do basic research, and my particular field is overwhelmingly male dominated. Per the most recent available data (2009), 86.9% of the clinicians in this field are male.


You're not disagreeing: no one doubts that academia is still male and Caucasian+Asian dominated. This is why Dave Jensen asked in the opening post

How real is the "old boy's club" issue outside of academia?


Though I'm still in academia, I will add to Dave Walker's point that I believe I've read (working from memory here, will try to confirm later if people would like), that the fact women earn on average 70% of men's salary's actually goes up to about 85-90% once you adjust for field (some fields are only now catching up, and it takes a bit to get into a leadership position even if colleges produce 50%/50% of a certain major), time on the career ladder and some other differences I'm sure I am forgetting. Whether the last 10-15% is unconscious bias or unaccounted for confounding is still being debated, though I don't think anyone really feels we've hit equality yet either, there's still more to do.

I will say though, I have a lot of friends who have left academia and pursued work as consultants, finance, business, industry and pharma and for the most part I can't seem to recall to many saying they've seen overt problems (and I've asked both females and males). On the academic side, I do have my own anecdote: I also remember being told at my undergrad university that the board unanimously voted to fire a tenured professor in my college (engineering) because of clearly sexist behavior towards female students in that he literally said they weren't talented enough to get better than a B in his courses when it was escalated by the dean! So from what I see in my own myopic view of the world, things are on the mend across the board at the very least.
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Re: Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby Rich Lemert » Thu May 28, 2015 3:36 pm

While great strides are being made in this area, at least in the developed world, you can't legislate attitude. Discrimination is no longer blatant, nor is it always intentional - but it's still present.

A couple of months ago there was a blog on LinkedIn describing a meeting of upper-level managers discussing the next round of promotions. One candidate - a male - was described as an aggressive go-getter who was ready for his next step. Another - a female - was described as a little rough around the edges and needed a little 'seasoning' to soften her aggressiveness.

At the next break, one of the author's aides noted that while the language used to describe to two candidates was different, the behavior involved was nearly identical.

To its credit, when this comment was brought to the board's attention, the board re-opened the promotions part of their agenda and approved both candidates.
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Re: Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby Rich Lemert » Thu May 28, 2015 3:40 pm

As a side note, one of the places that has done the most to prevent inadvertent sex discrimination is the symphony orchestra. From what I understand, auditions are now conducted blindly. The audition panel is on one side of a screen, while the person auditioning - identified only by number - performs on the other side.

Since this practice was instituted, the number of women gaining significant seats in major orchestras has increased dramatically.
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Re: Is this sex discrimination comment truly valid?

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu May 28, 2015 3:47 pm

Rich Lemert wrote:As a side note, one of the places that has done the most to prevent inadvertent sex discrimination is the symphony orchestra. From what I understand, auditions are now conducted blindly. The audition panel is on one side of a screen, while the person auditioning - identified only by number - performs on the other side.

Since this practice was instituted, the number of women gaining significant seats in major orchestras has increased dramatically.


Great example, Rich! I just watched the wonderful Amazon TV series called "Mozart in the Jungle" and it showed this happening in fact,

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