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article imageOp-Ed: It’s true — Women get less in STEM, academia, research, grants

By Paul Wallis     Oct 1, 2015 in Science
Sydney - Feminist advocates have been making the point for years that women don’t get the support and breaks that men get. Now, the numbers are backing them up. New grim stats are showing how wide the financial gaps are.
There’s been a more or less continuous rollout of various indicators, notably a new study in the more gender-friendly Netherlands which shows that women get fewer grants awarded. The trouble is that the disparities seem to widen when it comes to money. Money may or may not make the world go round, but it does drive research. Lack of money is basically a dead end for female researchers.
This isn’t about a few token women getting better salaries or executive positions. It seems to be a pattern, and it seems to revolve around big money, either literally or in relation to career opportunities and positioning. A recent study by the Medical Foundation Division of Health Resources in Action conducted in New England shows some startling differences in the area of startups. The report cites median startup salaries for male scientists as $889,000, whereas for women it’s $350,000.
Putting this in further context, the study also shows that the average age for researchers is 42, after an academic history of postdoctoral studies which ends in their “early 30s”. It’s a long way to the top, obviously, if you want a role in biomedical research, and being female is definitely not a plus.
The tales continue: The EEOC found a pattern of pay disparity in the University of Denver’s Sturm School of Law dating back to 1973 which may involve a $1.2 million damages bill to female faculty members.
In April this year, according to Chemistry World:
At the request of three Congresswomen the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has launched an investigation into whether gender bias is influencing the awarding of research grants, which would be illegal under US law.
The Chemistry World article states that women only hold 17 percent of professorships and 35 percent of tenure or tenure track positions. These numbers don’t need explanation. The culture which supports them, however, does. More women than men graduate from college. The numbers shouldn’t be anything remotely like this different.
It’s not a new story. Virginia Woolf, in her classic A Room of One’s Own, tells a tale of needing a male escort to enter the library of the University of Oxford. This particular historical obscenity forms part of a very poignant lecture which includes the legendary Shakespeare’s Sister theory of women as writers.
You can see which way the insanity lies, as well as the cheapskate meanness - Arbitrary, ridiculous, outdated, cloistered environments, and pathetic concepts. Boys Clubs don’t just happen. Every slimy little allegedly male gargoyle who’s also frightened of The Girls can join in. It’s one of the reasons I despise Boys Clubs.
What happens if you invent a cure for something and happen to be the wrong sex, age, or race? How thoughtless of you. You really must try harder.
From a purely male perspective, may I say that this expensive, useless absurdity is far beyond even the usual abysmal levels of Boys Clubs in business and politics, with fewer excuses. Scientists are supposed to be somebodies, and these tiresome little trolls definitely don’t fit that description.
I’ve met some of The Boys. (Couldn’t avoid the smug little bastards.) I met them when they were boys, and as people, many didn’t really escape grade school. They were the plodders, the idiots who simply swallowed what they were told and never thought about any of it. That they were allowed to become college teachers is no great reassurance, either.
Some academics are truly good at what they do, but I’ve never noticed The Boys as part of the really brilliant work. Pedants, yes; dogmatists, yes; incapable of original thought, yes; weak little sycophants, yes; top of the line, never. These are the clowns who roam the online threads trashing real researchers. I’ve written more articles than I care to count on this subject.
The bottom line here is that real scientists aren’t getting the support they need. Hopefully GAO and others will drive the nails in to the coffin of a practice that needs to become extinct. Hopefully, also, those handing out the cash and positions will get the message — no more of this crap. It's not in anyone's interest for good science to be obstructed, particularly for such a ridiculous reason.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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