By Marlene Goldman, for the Center for Women at Emory
Today, neuroscience is a profession with a steep drop-off in female representation between graduate student and faculty member. Women increasingly are going into the neurosciences, and more than 75 percent of the neuroscience graduate students at Emory are women. Yet less than 25 percent of the faculty is female. That disparity is echoed nationwide.
Meera Modi, a neurosciences graduate student at Emory, wants to help women advance. She and fellow graduate students Rebecca Roffman and Vasiliki Michopoulos launched Emory Women in Neuroscience (E-WIN), a network for PhD students, postdoc candidates and faculty members. When some 40 graduate students showed up for the first meeting last year, it became clear that they weren’t alone in their struggle to survive in a male-dominated field.
“Academia as a whole, particularly the sciences, consists of a rigid scheme of events necessary to move up the career ladder,” Modi says. “Getting academic positions and grants to fund research is highly competitive, a process that’s not very forgiving to those who want to take alternate routes or take time off to start a family or take care of aging parents. Female PhDs aspiring to an academic career in the neurosciences often drop out, sometimes because existing policies don’t support the demands women often face.”
Modi says E-WIN hopes eventually to create a program of faculty mentors for graduate students, but there are not enough women faculty at Emory to match with almost 100 female graduate students and postdocs.
E-WIN recently sponsored the event “Families and Academia” and is planning several mini-symposiums, one of which will focus on types of academic jobs that are available. Another symposium will address bargaining for salaries and how to make your voice heard in a male-dominated department.
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A feminist lens on science
And here's an excerpt from a New York Times article "Gains, and Drawbacks, for Female Professors," explaining how MIT's model for gender equality has backfired in some ways:
"Now women say they are uneasy with the frequent invitations to appear on campus panels to discuss their work-life balance. In interviews for the study, they expressed frustration that parenthood remained a women’s issue, rather than a family one.
"As Professor Sive said, 'Men are not expected to discuss how much sleep they get or what they give their kids for breakfast.'
"Administrators say some men use family leave to do outside work, instead of to be their children’s primary care giver — creating more professional inequity."