Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams' recent PNAS article on the real reasons behind the underrepresentation of women in science is generating some buzz. Mike the Mad Biologist says it's not just because of discrimination or institutional biases, but also because women scientists are "often loaded with jobs that best could be described as 'cleaning up the mess.'" From what he has observed, women are expected to take on committee work and other service commitments — "teamwork burdens" — in numbers disproportionate to men, Mike says. In research groups that involve large amounts of people, that's not so bad, he adds. But when it comes to academia, this approach can be "disastrous." When it comes to advancing in a university setting, "You have to toot your own horn — that is, differentiate yourself from the group. You also have to be 'selfish of your time.' If an activity is not going to lead to the next step (e.g., a faculty position or tenure), then you really have to think about how you're going to say no," Mike says. And in many ways, women put the group ahead of themselves.
'Cleaning Up the Mess'
Feb 12, 2011