|Affirmative Action in the Biological Sciences; Caroline M. Kane and Laura Williams|
This is the second of two articles about affirmative action. The first article, "Affirmative Action in California: How the Issues Affect the Nation," appeared in the November 1996 issue of the ASCB Newsletter.
Perhaps people are so divided over the philosophy and implementation of affirmative action in this country because the definition of affirmative action is different for different people. A short history lesson reminds us that affirmative action was initiated during the Johnson Administration in the late 1960s, and the Nixon Administration expanded the efforts by putting such efforts into law.Affirmative action began not as a defined program, but as a philosophy that there should be affirmative action in American society toward citizens of all races, ethnicities and both genders, as well as those with different religious beliefs. Before the implementation of this philosophy, there was both an active and a more subtle exclusion of citizens from education, employment, housing, and even public transportation. Affirmative action was designed to provide equal access to opportunity for all persons.
At that time, affirmative action meant that employment openings would be advertised, that men and women who were responsible and dependable members of the work force would be accorded respect in their opinions and equal consideration in their loan applications, and so on.It meant that educational institutions would expect the same high performance of everyone, would recruit students based on their potential, and would judge their abilities by considering criteria in addition to their scores on standardized tests.
Why is there any concern about affirmative action in an "objective" field like research science? We need only look at the recent issues about including women in health studies, including more African Americans in studies about heart disease and diabetes, including more residents in border towns in studies about spina bifida, and including an evaluation of the selection of economically-disadvantaged areas for toxic waste sites. Those of us designing such studies need to consider that effects on people and communities may go beyond our own personal experiences. As cell biologists, our interpretation of the results of experiments in our laboratories may seem far removed from these more "global" considerations. However, we bring to our interpretations our own experiences and upbringing.Including the creative minds and experiences of the broader community just makes scientific sense. Affirmative action in the encouragement and identification of young scholars from the broader community is essential when they are trying to establish themselves within a cultural and social setting that inadvertently may not appreciate their experiences and ways of thinking. Affirmative action means that the profession cares that these individuals are successful in their training and scholarship as well as are receiving information about the available positions to which they might apply.
But aren't those who pursue research science and the other professions that benefit from advanced scientific training self-selected? Certainly students follow their own interests, as do professionals in any field where there is gainful employment. The issues that discourage students from continuing to pursue their interests are complex, but in so saying, that does not eliminate responsibility for more senior professionals to confront those issues. Dealing with those issues does not exclude interested individuals, but rather includes talented persons who would otherwise move to other areas. The issues of peer groups, faculty representation, scientific community acceptance and involvement, and even outright negative stereotyping can direct students into areas outside their interests and talents.
Confronting those issues is affirmative action.We must welcome and include students from diverse backgrounds into the society of science. This involves much more than one program or a few faculty members or peers. It involves including the young scholar in the fabric of the profession, in the research experience, in the discussion sections, in the professional meetings, in the introductions to other scientists, just as has been done for decades for many who are now in the profession.
Eleven past, present, and future Presidents of the ASCB sent a letter to the Regents of the University of California in December 1995 in response to the Regents' resolution to eliminate ethnicity and gender as factors in hiring and admissions to the University of California. The full text of the letter appeared in the February 1996 issue of the ASCB Newsletter (Vol.19, No.2). The following is an excerpt from the letter:
we fully support a full range of affirmative action efforts taken to encourage talented students from a variety of backgrounds to contribute to the scientific enterpriseÉ We cannot and will not rely on passive inclusion of these individuals into our disciplines, and we cannot and must not wait for the dream to be fulfilled through the eventual equal distribution of educational and community resources into all strata of American life. The needs of both the basic sciences and the economic vitality of the United States demand more aggressive and affirmative action to provide our diverse young scientists with the tools for success...
Efforts in this direction have been made much more difficult in the state of California by the passage of Proposition 209 on November 5, 1996. The Proposition, which was described in this column last month, says "the State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." In effect, the passage of this proposition eliminates and makes illegal affirmative action by the State of California and by all cities, counties and public schools, colleges, and universities in California. This proposition went into effect the day after the election. As yet, all of the consequences of Proposition 209 are not clear.
Some of the strictures of this proposition had already been mandated by the Regents of the University of California for implementation for the class of students entering in 1998. On November 6, 1996, the morning after the passage of Proposition 209, guidelines from the Office of the President of the University of California were issued. These guidelines dictate that, effective immediately, the above-mentioned criteria cannot be considered in admissions to the university or in non-federally funded programs involved in targeting and recruiting students.Financial aid resources based on these criteria already awarded are not in jeopardy, but no future scholarships can utilize these criteria. The effect on retention programs and on student organizations is likely to be dramatic and immediate. The constitutionality and the implementation of Proposition 209 will be challenged in court. In the meantime, all non-federally funded public education programs in the State of California that seek to increase diversity by targeting individuals based on race, ethnicity, gender or national origin are subject to legal attack and elimination.
If resources were truly unlimited and there were no preferences, who would be encouraged and welcomed into the sciences? Until the answer becomes, "why, anyone who truly is talented and interested!" we will continue to need affirmative action programs.Until public education and social structure allow these talented and interested students full opportunity, we have the responsibility to act affirmatively to open the research community to members from all segments of the American community.
|Affirmative Action in California: How the Issues Affect the Nation; Caroline M. Kane and Laura Williams|
First part of a two-part article.
In California, a battle over affirmative action is being waged. On November 5, the State of California will vote on a ballot initiative to eliminate affirmative action. Proposition 209 removes race, ethnicity, and gender from consideration in state-supported hiring and contracting, and in admissions to state-supported institutions of higher education. Proposition 209 is also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), and it is leading in the polls perhaps due to its "Civil Rights" moniker. In effect, this proposition says that discrimination is a thing of the past. Indeed, the primary supporters of this proposition feel that it is discrimination to consider race, ethnicity, and gender in hiring, contracting, and educational opportunity. Those opposed to this proposition feel that discrimination remains rampant and that consideration of race, ethnicity, and gender for increasing professional diversity in the workplace and in institutions of higher education continues to be a serious responsibility of a civilized society.
While opponents of this proposition often accuse its supporters of racism and sexism, the reality is much more complex. Many individuals, including some ethnic minorities and women, support the proposition because they feel that racial and gender considerations are used inappropriately to exclude "qualified" individuals or that preference is given to "unqualified" applicants to increase the diversity of the work force. Many others oppose the proposition because they have observed how racial and gender considerations increase opportunity for those who would otherwise be overlooked, or even excluded, from active consideration.
A discussion of four common questions about affirmative action follows. The discussion will focus on higher education. Examples and data from the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) will be presented as UC Berkeley has made "Excellence and Diversity" its credo, and its student body has become one of the most diverse of any major American public university.
Does Affirmative Action Work?
....college presidents will tell you that the education their schools offer actually benefit from diversity; colleges where young people get the education and make the personal and professional contacts that will shape their lives. If their colleges look like the world they are going to live and work in, and they learn from all different kinds of people things that they can't learn in books, our systems of higher education are stronger...
On the UC Berkeley campus, the academic qualifications of the freshman class have increased as the undergraduate body has diversified. The Chancellor of UC Berkeley, Chang-Lin Tien, wrote for the Los Angeles Times on July 19, 1995, "Our fall 1994 freshman class, in which no racial group constitutes a majority, is stronger academically than the class of 10 years ago." An analysis of the admissions program shows that 50% of the admitted students are offered admissions based solely on test scores and high school grades. Fully 95% of the admitted students are from the top 12.5% of the high school classes throughout California. A small fraction of students are admitted under special circumstances using considerations other than grades and test scores because they have shown the personal and intellectual potential to succeed. They have special talents (e.g., athletics, music, or art) or have successfully overcome special difficulties. Their circumstances convince admissions officers that they have the potential to succeed in the UC Berkeley academic environment and that they can positively influence other students on the UC Berkeley campus. These students comprise only 5% of each new freshman class.
As diversity has increased, so has the overall graduation rate at UC Berkeley. The six year graduation rate is now 80%, much higher than the 48% rate for the 1955 freshman class when the undergraduate student body was primarily white. The graduation rates are increasing more rapidly for African American and Chicano students than for either white or Asian American students. Also, the graduation rates for underrepresented students at Berkeley are higher than for those students at many comparable colleges and universities throughout the country (data from the Office of Admissions and Records, UC Berkeley).
Despite increasing diversity in the undergraduate student body at Berkeley, the faculty themselves are not yet so diverse. In 1964, a committee was formed of mostly white male faculty members who realized that California's demographics were leading to a predominantly non-white society and that the future faculty of the public University should reflect the population of the state. Their goal was affirmative action to identify, support, and promote students from underrepresented groups and women to succeed in their undergraduate careers at the University of California at Berkeley and to take up academic professions. This committee, now a formal committee of the Berkeley Academic Senate called the Special Scholarships Committee, continues to work toward the same goal.
Are Affirmative Action Programs Still Needed?
The unemployment rate for African Americans remains about twice that of whites. The Hispanic rate is still much higher. Women have narrowed the earnings gap, but still make only 72 percent as much as men do for comparable jobs. The average income for an Hispanic woman with a college degree is still less than the average income of a white man with a high school diploma.
Unfortunately, even in UC Berkeley classrooms, ethnic, racial, and gender stereotypes can be found. There are the women in the chemistry class who are accused of copying each others' homework, else why would they be succeeding. There is the professor who upon noting an increased number of African American males in his classes comments on the possible need for a metal detector in the classroom doorway. There are the pressures put upon the Asian American students who are expected to break the curve, because they are the model intellectual minority, after all. However, anecdotal incidents hold little sway in the arguments for or against affirmative action programs, since there are also the anecdotal incidents in which reverse discrimination has occurred because someone is white or male.
Because of concern about this possibility, there have been several studies on reverse discrimination. A recent study was commissioned by the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The draft report compiled by Rutgers University Law Professor Alfred W. Blumrosen indicates that, "the problem of reverse discrimination is not widespread; and that where it exists, the courts have given relief." He concludes, "nothing in these cases would justify dismantling the existing structure of equal employment opportunity programs."
Are Less-Qualified Persons Given Preference?
When preferences are put into a negative light, it is presumed that someone is getting something that she does not deserve. When preferences are put into a positive light, it is presumed that someone is finally getting an opportunity that has been previously unavailable due to of the color of his skin or because of her gender. The crux of the issue of preferences is the meaning of the word, "qualified." Is qualified a high score on a standardized test? Is qualified gaining entrance to a college or university based on your high school grades alone? Is qualified excelling in the sciences when you must work at your after-school job for six hours a day during high school? Is qualified becoming a National Merit Scholar when no one else in your family has ever attended college?
One evaluates the potential of an 18-year-old student or, for that matter, a 30-year-old faculty colleague based on one's own experience. If your own experience, and that of the committee members assisting in the evaluations, reflects a limited subset of the community, how can you justify your consideration of circumstances with which you have no experience? Your best guess for success might be your own path to success, and that certainly is not the only path to success.
Don't Students or Faculty Admitted or Hired by Affirmative Action Fail More Often?
Among faculty, the numbers of women and scholars from underrepresented ethnic groups are small enough to thwart reliable statistical analyses about success or failure. However, the numbers of white men have been large enough to notice that many members of this category do not attain tenure, have personal problems, and are involved in disciplinary actions. This result does not mean that white men as a group are a problem, nor does it mean that the percentages of white men with problems can be transferred to the other gender or to other ethnic groups. Simply put, one cannot extend conclusions about any individual to an entire community.
If Proposition 209 passes, it will have a devastating effect on higher education and the state of California, according to Chang-Lin Tien and Charles Young, the Chancellors of UC Berkeley and UCLA, respectively. They held a press conference on October 20, 1996, to emphasize their opposition to Proposition 209. Affirmative action is also an issue in the upcoming national elections. Presidential candidate Bob Dole supports Proposition 209 and would eliminate all federal affirmative action programs. President Clinton opposes Proposition 209, and his position on affirmative action is that we should, "mend it, not end it."
A further discussion of affirmative action, particularly in the biological sciences, will appear in this column in next month's newsletter.
|The History of WICB: The Later Years; Laura Williams|
Note: This is the second of two articles about the history of WICB. The first article, "The History of WICB: The Founding and Early Years," appeared in the August 1996 issue of the ASCB Newsletter (Vol. 19, No. 8).
The women who founded WICB in 1971 and kept it going through the 1970s had been in the Yale Department of Biology together. Virginia Walbot, currently a Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, and Mary Clutter, currently Assistant Director of Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation, founded WICB and continued as the editors of the WICB Newsletter for the first four or five years. WICB had no officers at that time, but the editor of the newsletter served as the leader and organizer of the group.
The next editor of the WICB Newsletter, from 1976 to 1978, was Susan Goldhor, who was then Dean of Natural Sciences at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and had previously been a Visiting Scholar at Yale. Goldhor is now President of the Center for Applied Regional Studies in Cambridge. As Dean of Hampshire College, Goldhor was doing a lot of interviewing and hiring. She noticed that more women than men were making serious mistakes in the job application and interview process. To address the problem she wrote a handbook entitled "How to Get a Job"; Walbot and Clutter helped, too. WICB began selling the handbook for $1 per copy, and Goldhor says it sold over 1,000 copies. The sale of the handbook supported the WICB meetings and the publication of the WICB Newsletter. WICB's funding problems of the early 1970s were over. When asked about her term as editor of the WICB Newsletter, Goldhor recalled reprinting sexist advertisements in the newsletter and asking readers to write to the responsible company to complain. According to Goldhor, WICB became "bigger and quite popular" during the years in which she served as editor.
Through the 1970s, WICB continued to meet at the ASCB annual meetings. Elizabeth Harris, currently the Director of the Chlamydomonas Genetics Center at Duke University, recollects taking over as editor of the WICB Newsletter at the 1978 ASCB Annual Meeting. Harris was then a postdoc at Duke University and had previously been a graduate student with Walbot at Yale. Harris remembers that around 1980 there was an ASCB annual meeting that had no scheduled women speakers. In response, WICB organized dinners at the annual meetings at which women gave scientific talks to demonstrate that there were women scientists doing good work who were worthy of speaking. These dinners were in addition to the regular WICB programs. Harris was editor of the WICB Newsletter for about three years, after which the WICB Newsletter was no longer published; there was no WICB function at the 1982 ASCB Annual Meeting.
But the next year they regrouped, and WICB was revived by new leaders. The 1983 WICB meeting was organized by Jane Peterson, currently Program Director of Genomic Sequencing at the National Center for Human Genome Research, and Kathryn Vogel, currently a Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico, with the assistance of Dorothea Wilson, then-ASCB Executive Director. Peterson thought it was important for WICB to continue since, as a program administrator at NSF, she had been trying to increase the number of women speakers at scientific meetings. In the report of the 1983 meeting, which appeared in the January, 1984, ASCB Newsletter (Vol. 6, No. 1), Vogel explained that the "lack of a [WICB] function during the 1982 Annual Meeting was not an active decision but occurred simply because W[I]CB had insufficient organizational structure to assure continuity of planning for the group." To rectify this situation, a procedure to elect officers was established which ensured the continuation of WICB through the years. Those who were in attendance at the 1983 WICB meeting elected a Chair and Vice Chair. At each annual meeting, the vice chair would become chair, and a new vice chair would be elected. The names of all the WICB chairs are listed in the box above left.
The first elected WICB Chair, Ellen Dirksen, currently Professor of Neurobiology at UCLA, wrote the following about women in science and the role of WICB in the September, 19&4 ASCB Newsletter (Vol.6, No.4).
There is little question that this is an important period for women who have chosen careers in the sciences. Until recently, only extraordinary (in the fullest sense of that word) women were willing to accept the difficulties they knew awaited them as a consequence of their decision. It is not that we were not capable, but we were not always willing to make the either-or choice necessary for survival in science.
It is now beginning to be possible, for the first time in history, for relatively large numbers of women to consider freely a future in science without feeling that the choice is an extraordinary one. And yet we still need, for those of us in the process, a sense of community. For this reason, the decision was made to establish a more formal role for the WICB,
Many of us are, perhaps, the only women in our departments, or the only tenured women in our colleges. We thus look forward to renewing our friendships with other women at our Annual Meetings for support, encouragement, and fellowship.
There has been a WICB function at every ASCB annual meeting from 1983 to the present. The WICB function consisted of a business meeting followed by a speaker or panel presentation and then a group discussion. The program titles and the speakers are listed below. The attendance of some of the WICB meetings was reported in newsletters: approximately 150 attended the 1983 meeting, 250 in 1984, 300 in 1985, and 900 in 1991, described in the newsletter as "a record turnout."
Beginning at the meeting in 1986 and continuing to the present, the annual WICB meeting included the presentation of the Junior and Senior Career Recognition Awards [see page 1 for the announcement of this year's winners]. The Junior recipient is selected on the basis of her significant potential for scientific contribution. The Senior recipient is selected on the basis of scientific achievement and a strong commitment to the fostering of women in science. A history of the WICB Career Awards appeared in the April, 1996, ASCB Newsletter (Vol. 19, No. 4).
In place of the ASCB Annual Meeting in 1988, a joint meeting was held in conjunction with the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) in San Francisco in January 1989. WICB and the ASBMB Committee for Equal Opportunities for Women co-sponsored a panel discussion. Due to the joint meeting, no WICB business was discussed, no WICB Career Awards were given, and no election was held. Thus, Mina Bissell and Jane Peterson, the 1988 Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, continued their terms for a second year.
Although WICB started out as a fringe group considered radical by some, over time WICB became more accepted in the ASCB. Beginning in 1984, the ASCB Newsletter published WICB program announcements and reports. Around the same time, WICB began receiving funds from ASCB to help support their meetings. Over the years, WICB and its officers were greatly helped by Dorothea Wilson and Rosemary Simpson; Simpson was Executive Assistant of the ASCB. WICB gave Wilson and Simpson special awards in 1990, in lieu of the Senior Career Award, "for their continued efforts in support of WICB," as reported by Jane Peterson in the May 1991 ASCB Newsletter (Vol. 14, No. 3).
However, there were women in the ASCB who did not appreciate WICB. Jane Peterson remembers receiving letters from such women in the late 1980s. Some women were concerned that they would be labeled as "women's libbers" if they associated with WICB. Some expressed dissatisfaction with the WICB Career Awards. They thought the award could be a blemish on the recipient's record since it was given by women to women. Both Mina Bissell and Susan Gerbi recall being warned that if they became Chair of WICB, they might be labeled as radicals and might not be chosen for future positions. It should be noted, however, that soon after serving as WICB Chair, Gerbi, currently the Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown University, was elected ASCB President. Bissell is currently Director of the Life Sciences Division at Berkeley National Laboratory and 1996 ASCB President-elect. Another past WICB Chair who was later elected ASCB President is Ursula Goodenough, currently a Professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
But in 1988, then-Chair Mina Bissell was prompted by these concerns to appoint an Advisory Committee to consider the following issues: whether there was still a need for a Women in Cell Biology group, whether the Career Recognition Awards should continue, and whether WICB should become a standing committee of the ASCB. Bissell reported the conclusions of the committee in the July, 1988, ASCB Newsletter (Vol. 11, No. 2). The committee agreed that WICB "performs a useful function and yes, there is still a need for a Women in Cell Biology group." It concluded that "WICB would be better off as a ‘Special Interest Group' since we do want to be able to elect our officials [as opposed to their being appointed by Society leadership as are other committee chairs]." Finally, the committee decided to continue to give the Career Awards, but to discontinue the small monetary prizes which had been funded through contributions from corporations and private individuals. From then on, WICB continued to have a steering committee to provide the chair and vice chair with guidance..
WICB Chairs: 1984 to the present
In 1992, the issue of WICB becoming an ASCB standing committee was raised again. Susan Gerbi suggested that WICB should become a standing committee "to give our budget requests legitimacy and for continuity of support from ASCB." Then-Vice Chair Ursula Goodenough wrote about the issue and its implications in the July/August 1992 ASCB Newsletter (Vol. 15, No. 5). The major implication was that, as a standing committee, WICB would no longer be able to elect its own chair, because the ASCB President appoints the chairs of all standing committees. Susan Gerbi, 1991 WICB Chair, remembers that some were afraid that WICB would lose its autonomy and that its officers and programs would be dictated by the Society, but a compromise was reached that was satisfactory to everyone, allowing the committee to recommend a chair to the ASCB Council for approval and leaving the option of election of Committee members. At the 1992 ASCB Annual Meeting in Denver, the Women in Cell Biology voted to become the Women in Cell Biology Committee of the ASCB.
Current WICB Chair W. Sue Shafer, Associate Director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at NIH, was selected by Committee members as the first Chair of the WICB Committee. The current committee members are listed in the front of the 1996 ASCB Directory of Members. The WICB chair and committee members serve three-year terms. Committee members are no longer elected, but are appointed by the Chair as with other ASCB standing committees.
Shafer reported on one of the first activities of WICB as a standing committee in the April 1994 ASCB Newsletter (Vol. 17, No. 4). That was to solicit ASCB members' ideas "as to the role you want WICB to play in the Society, the projects you believe it should consider, and the activities it could begin which would be most important." The item most requested by members was some kind of mentoring program. In response, the committee settled on the idea of a career luncheon at the 1995 Annual Meeting, featuring tables with discussions on various topics. The 1995 luncheon was so successful that the 1996 career luncheon will follow the same format.
ASCB members are encouraged to do their part to continue the tradition of WICB by attending the WICB annual meetings at which the career award presentations are made. The 1996 WICB Meeting will be held on Monday, December 9, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. The annual career luncheons are another opportunity to show support; the 1996 Career luncheon co-sponsored by the WICB and Education Committees is entitled "What to Do with Your Graduate Degree" and will be held on Monday, December 9, from 12:30 to 2:30 pm. Nominate people for the annual WICB Career Recognition Awards. Read the WICB column regularly. Finally, please feel free to contact me or any of the committee members with your ideas, suggestions, and concerns.
* An audiotape of this program is available for $10 from the ASCB National Office.
|Our Dilemma:Students and Postdocs Look to the Future; W. Sue Shafer|
What is the problem?
What gives? I am well into a PhD program and feel it is too late to quit (molecular genetics, end of second year). If I quit, my resume is the pits, but my fear is being stuck in post-docs and never finding a job. I am writing in terms of a science PhD, so if you have experience or more material to read....I am not looking for a pep talk, I want opinions and advice. Right now I feel like I should stay in but broaden my horizons with more computer experience since my degree will be somewhat limited: molecular biology.
Her post is one of many. Her message has haunted me as I help the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, where I work, to continue to support high quality research training in the biomedical sciences.
Is the problem unique to people entering research careers?
First, Morris R. Shechtman, President of the Shechtman Group and author of Working Without a Net: Surviving and Thriving in a High Risk World (Prentice Hall, 1994), contended in a recent talk that the growth of information technology and the rapid changes in its availability have produced a new and highly unstable world. In the old scenario, you got a job and stuck with it until you retired. The future holds the prospect of a series of jobs or careers. While security was external in the past (your job), it must be internal in the future (your skills). Shechtman's point is that, in the business world of the future, competition will be increased, margins and profits decreased, and innovation will have a short shelf life. Technical skills will be constantly evolving. Thus, the employee of value to any organization is a person with people skills, good skills in resolving problems, a strategy for offense, and good networks. These are people who know where they want to go and how to get there.
Second, a book entitled JobShift: How to Prosper in a Workplace without Jobs by William Bridges (Addison Wesley, 1994) was reviewed by Jay H. Hartley on the YSN Digest, Number 1938, February 7, 1996. With his permission, I have quoted the following excerpts from his review.
Bridges wrote the best-sellers Transitions (Addison Wesley, 1980) and Managing Transitions (Addison Wesley, 1991), and when not authoring has been a management guru for a couple decades.
The main thesis of his latest book is that our country, and indeed our world, is currently in the midst of the Second Great Job Shift. The first was caused by the Industrial Revolution, when people transitioned from village life to urbania. Along with this shift came a redefinition of the very meaning of the word, job. In the village, it meant a task or project, generally of finite duration and paid fee-for-service if paid at all.... In the Industrial Age, a job was actually a position in the hierarchy of a company, with a clearly-defined set of responsibilities and paid a salary. As long as one stayed properly within the confines of the job description, one could count on advancement up the organizational structure.
The current Second Great Job Shift, according to Bridges, is the Death of the Job, at least as it has been defined for the past two hundred years. As has been mentioned...the downsizing of corporate America has truly eliminated jobs, and in Bridges' vision this is a permanent, fundamental change, not a temporary layoff caused by economic downturn....individuals need to take on the mentality of the independent contractor/vendor constantly trying to address the company's needs instead of just doing your job ....His suggestion for governments is that they stop focusing on trying to produce jobs and instead try to encourage new business....Money should be spent giving people the skills needed to be business people - literacy, computeracy, basic accounting, marketing - and then the support needed to start small businesses, instead of job training for a job that won't exist by the time the program is completed....
How do we translate these two views into meaningful advice for individuals considering research careers and for pre- and postdoctoral scientists? We need to educate applicants for our Ph.D. programs about the likelihood that they will find an academic position at the end of their training. Other possible outcomes and career paths need to be clearly on the table. We must acknowledge that students and postdocs are learning the most important skills, the basics: how to solve problems; how to recognize and frame meaningful, testable questions; how to develop new technical skills; and how to find good collaborators. If they continue in academic research careers, they will be shaping scientific progress. But if newly trained scientists do not get the academic job they desire or choose not to pursue this path, they must be prepared to transfer their scientific skills to an ever broadening array of opportunities. Fields such as law, financial analysis, risk assessment, journalism, or marketing are increasingly in need of scientific talent and expertise.
Who is responsible?
What is being done?
Although our primary purpose is the training of new, independent NIH-supported investigators, we strongly support the recommendations of Dr. Griffith's Committee that graduate programs should explain and endorse the diversity of career options in scientific fields, including biomedicine. The enthusiasm of students is sustained by the prospect of reasonable job opportunities, and the vitality of scientific fields increasingly depends on the work of well-trained Ph.D. recipients who enter non-traditional (i.e., non-academic) positions. All students should therefore be provided with information about such jobs.
Dr. Varmus went on to say:
Currently, Science's Next Wave, a web site published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Science magazine, is presenting an interactive discussion forum entitled "The Situation of Post-Docs." The forum began on August 2, 1996 and will remain interactive until October 4, 1996. The forum, which deals with the postdoc experience from a variety of different points of view can be found online. Science's Next Wave strongly encourages all members of the scientific community to read the presentations and enter the exchange of ideas.
There are more and more career resources available to students and postdocs. Academic institutions and professional societies are sponsoring career programs to examine the many career options available to scientists with advanced research degrees. For example, at the upcoming ASCB annual meeting, a career luncheon entitled "What to do with your Graduate Degree?" is being co-sponsored by the WICB and Education Committees. The list below includes several of the many publications that were created to provide educational and career guidance to students and postdocs:
*At the time of Puffenbarger's post, April, 1995, it was not clear whether these budgets would increase. NSF and NIH did get modest increases, but competition for grant funds also keeps increasing.
|The History of WICB: The Founding and Early Years; Laura Williams|
On the eve of the ASCB annual meeting in 1971, a small group of women at Yale University were discussing their dissatisfaction with the status of women in cell biology. There were very few women faculty, and even fewer were tenured. Women speakers at meetings and seminars were very uncommon. Virginia Walbot, then a graduate student in the Yale Department of Biology and now a Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, had the idea to organize women in cell biology and to seize the opportunity to do so at the annual meeting. She, Mary Clutter, then a Yale research associate and part-time lecturer and now Assistant Director of Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation, and others made posters asking interested women to meet. At the meeting in New Orleans, Walbot and Mary Lake Polan, then a Yale postdoc and now Chair of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Stanford, put the posters in women's restrooms. Walbot estimates that 30 people attended the first meeting, held in a hotel bar.
In the following years, the Women in Cell Biology (WICB) continued to meet at the ASCB annual meetings. The meetings afforded women the opportunity to network, to arrange collaborations, to talk. Each year the meeting had a theme, e.g., juggling career and family, mentorship, gender equity in job placement. According to Clutter, the mood of the meetings was upbeat and supportive; people cheered like at political rallies. WICB reported that their meeting in Miami in 1973 was attended by nearly 200 women and about a dozen men. The major topic discussed was the hiring and promotion of women in academia and government laboratories.
Soon after the first meeting, WICB began to publish a newsletter, which was originally co-edited by Walbot and Clutter. The newsletter was produced with typewriter and mimeograph. Walbot said that the main motivation for publishing the newsletter was to disseminate job listings. At that time, most positions were not advertised —there were not long lists of job ads in Science as there are now. To create a list of jobs, the women who attended the first meeting all asked about openings back at their home departments. One month later, the resulting list of jobs was published in the newsletter. Walbot estimates that 5% were not actual positions, but rumors. The first issue of the newsletter was sent to the ASCB members whose names looked female so that they would be informed of and could apply for the jobs listed. Walbot wonders how the recipients of applications for jobs that were never advertised reacted. In later issues of the newsletter, job listings came from the ASCB placement office.
In addition to job listings, the newsletters contained news about women who were appointed to powerful positions, sexist comments by speakers and in the biological literature, results of studies and court cases relating to women's issues —especially sex discrimination in employment. The spring 1974 newsletter included a questionnaire on hiring, firing, and promotion of women and men in order to determine "whether affirmative action is really working." Reading the newsletters from the early 1970s gives a good idea of the political and social climate for women at that time. For example, the newsletter of May-June 1974, reported that a Superior Court ruled that Connecticut could no longer require women to use their married names when registering to vote. An issue later that year summarized an ACLU report that found a universal pattern of blatant discrimination against women by banks, loan associations, retailers, and credit distributors. Single women were required to have male co-signers when they applied for a loan. Widows and divorcees often could not get loans or charge accounts at all.
An important early goal of WICB was to help women advance from research associate, lecturer, and part-time positions to "real" jobs. As Susan Gerbi, currently Chair of Biology at Brown University and 1993 ASCB President related, "WICB was started at a time when the government threatened to discontinue federal grant support to universities if they did not hire women on their faculty, so the mood at WICB was upbeat because finally there were some 'real' job opportunities." WICB provided, in addition to job listings, a forum for advice and information on how to conduct a job search. At the meetings, Walbot told stories about her ongoing job search. WICB created publications including: How to Get a Postdoc, written by Walbot and Elizabeth Harris, then a postdoc at Duke University and now the curator of the Chlamydomonas Genetics Center there; How to Get a Job, written by Susan Goldhor, then Dean of Natural Sciences at Hampshire College and now President of the Center for Applied Regional Studies in Cambridge, MA, with Walbot and Clutter (an updated version is available from the ASCB); and How to Keep A Job, on getting tenure, by Goldhor.
WICB began as a grass-roots organization within the ASCB and, for a long time, was neither accepted nor appreciated by all members of the ASCB. One founding WICB member, Dorothy Skinner, now retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, brought WICB to the attention of the ASCB Council. As a member of the Council from 1972 to 1974, she presented to the Council issues of importance to women in cell biology. She suggested appropriate women as speakers at the annual meetings and also nominated more women to the Council. She saw her role as "putting efficient, bright women forward and giving them a chance to participate." Even with Skinner's support, the ASCB Council rejected a 1973 proposal requesting funds for continued publication of the WICB newsletter. In order to finance the newsletter, the editors had to collect cash contributions at the WICB meetings and appeal for contributions in the newsletter. The WICB newsletter was discontinued in the late 1970s, but WICB carried on. As Mary Clutter points out, "now women are fully involved [in the ASCB]; maybe that is due to WICB as a constant reminder."
A subsequent article will describe the history of WICB from the late 1970s to the present. The author would especially like to thank Virginia Walbot and Mary Clutter for their cooperation and contributions to this article.
|Another Look at Women's Publication Statistics; Sandra K. Masur|
There are many highly productive women scientists in the ASCB but, in general, are women scientists less productive than men scientists? Studies have shown that women scientists publish fewer articles per year in peer-reviewed journals than men. Let's look more closely at the recent data on the average annual number of articles published by women and men, the change in publication rates over time, and another measure of productivity, the citation index.
Average Annual Number of Articles
Change in Publication Rates over Time
The Citation Index
Your Publication Record and Your Career Whereas it seems that one's publication record can be, and is, used as a gender neutral variable, gender may play a role in professional advancement in some instances. For example, in an early study, men without publications in the first 7 or 8 years of their careers were in academic positions at institutions with greater prestige than the women with no publications. Presumably, in the absence of independent "objective" indicators, gender bias takes over. Thus, gender may be a handicap for the "less outstanding women scientists".
A recent finding is that a greater proportion of women's publications are in non-peer-reviewed publications like book chapters and articles in conference proceedings. Possibly, women perceive difficulty in publishing in peer-reviewed journals and/or want to avoid rejection. When I put the question of dealing with manuscript rejection to the larger scientific community, the frequent recommendation was that one must start the process of writing manuscripts (and grants) while acknowledging the prevailing rejection rate. However few are the immediate acceptances, the number is still better than zero – which is the number if you do not submit. And you do not have to be a cell biologist to figure that out. In the words of hockey great Wayne Gretsky, "you miss 100% of the shots you never take". It is important to develop mechanisms for coping with rejection in order to prevent paralysis, thus failure, in science. Many scientists would probably agree with Winston Churchill who said, "success is nothing else than going from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm".
Of particular concern is the impact of one's publication record on her/his academic advancement and funding. The recent studies suggest that peer review of CVs takes into account journal standing and citation index and, thus, does not rely on the single factor – absolute number of publications per year. The practical advice from these studies is that when your productivity is under evaluation, check your citation index. If it is strong, then make sure that it is brought to the attention of those who are evaluating you. Lastly – hang in there. Keep publishing regularly. With time your publication record will reflect your contributions to the body of scientific information which is, after all, the point of measuring productivity.
WICB Career Recognition Awards
The Junior Award will be given to a woman who has made significant scientific contributions to cell biology and exhibits the potential for continuing a high level of scientific endeavor while fostering the career development of young scientists. The Junior Award is reserved for a woman in an early stage of her independent career (i.e., assistant professor or equivalent).
The Senior Award will be given to a woman or man whose outstanding scientific achievements are coupled with a long-standing record of supporting women in science and mentoring both men and women in scientific careers. The Senior Award is reserved for an established scientist (i.e., full professor or equivalent).
|Analysis of NIH Grants to Women Scientists; Peter C. Preusch|
The following piece was inspired by questions addressed to the NIGMS staff by a grantee concerning the number and sizes of grants awarded to female principal investigators. The answer to these questions and many others can be found in the publication, Women in NIH Extramural Grant Programs. The document, which covers fiscal years 1984-1993, is the most recent publication on the subject. The following information about NIH grants to female principal investigators has been abstracted from that source, and references are given to the relevant sections of the publication.
Smaller budget requests from women and, thus, smaller grant sizes may be explained by the type of grant mechanism chosen (Section 2.8). For example, new female investigators are more likely than are their male colleagues to have been funded by the FIRST award mechanism, which provides a limited budget. The principal investigator of a program project grant, which is likely to be a large grant, is more likely to be a male rather than a female scientist.
Other factors which may contribute to the differences in grant size include the average age of female versus male principal investigators (Section 7.1) and the length of time a project has been funded. For example, Figure 3 (Section 7.3) shows the average dollar size of two types of awards (RO1s and R29s) by age group and gender. The differences between age-matched cohorts are small. This suggests that the largest factor contributing to differences in the average grant size by gender is the relative number of junior and senior investigators. Differences in the average grant size may be expected to shrink if the average age of female investigators (44.6 years in 1993) increases toward the average age of male investigators (46.6 years in 1993).
-Peter C. Preusch, Ph.D., National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
|Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the WICB Career Recognition Awards; Elizabeth Taparowsky and Laura Williams|
The Women in Cell Biology (WICB) will present their annual Career Recognition Awards at the 6th International Congress on Cell Biology & 36th American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in 1996. These awards have been presented each year for the last ten years—with the exception of 1988—to outstanding cell biologists whose scientific achievements and mentoring activities are deserving of peer recognition by all members of the Society (see end of article).
The Career Recognition Awards were established by the WICB in 1986. The original idea for the awards came from Kathryn Vogel and Pat Calarco, then WICB Chair and Vice-chair, respectively. In presenting the Career Recognition Awards, the WICB took an active role in focusing national attention on outstanding women scientists. As recalled by Pat Calarco, "we wanted to bestow some much-needed recognition on highly talented, effective, and deserving women. In those days—even in ASCB—women were rarely recognized. They were not major players on the Program Committee or Council; they did not comprise a significant population of the invited speakers, but they were ever more in evidence as contributing scientists in this arena."
Both a Junior and Senior Award were conceived in order to promote and recognize women cell biologists on two levels. The Junior Award, as described by Kathryn Vogel, was designed to "give a boost to the career of a promising young woman scientist" with the added intent of "raising the visibility of that woman within the Society". The Senior Award, Vogel continues, was designed as a "thank you" for what the recipient has done for woman scientists —"recognition of a history of being supportive of women scientists."
The first Junior Award was given to Mary Beckerle in 1986. Beckerle was contacted recently and asked how receiving the award has affected her career. She related that the award was a "vote of confidence in my abilities as a scientist." Having just moved to the University of Utah as an Assistant Professor in 1986, Beckerle reflected with amusement that receipt of the Junior Award gave her hope that she would "ultimately unpack all of those boxes and do experiments again!" Beckerle's scientific career has continued to flourish since she was recognized by the WICB in 1986. A profile of her career appeared in the June, 1994 ASCB Newsletter. She has assumed a leadership role in the ASCB, serving as Co-Chair of the Committee on Scientific Meetings in 1994, as an Associate Editor of Molecular Biology of the Cell, on the Nominating Committee in 1996, and as a newly elected member of the ASCB Council.
The first Senior Award was bestowed upon Mary Clutter, who was involved in the formation of the WICB in the 1970's and who has continued to support women in science through her leadership role at the National Science Foundation. When asked for reflections on her award, she recalled how pleased she was to receive it in 1986 and assured us that she still has the plaque!
Every year, selecting one person to receive each award from among the many qualified nominees is difficult. For this reason, the group periodically considers the possible repercussions of the award competition on the careers of young women who are nominated for—but do not receive—the Junior Award. For those not selected, is there a negative impact on their advancement? While this is difficult to determine, the WICB Committee believes that the nomination process itself may be beneficial to a woman's career by solidifying in the mind of a supervisor or a department chair the overall contributions made by the nominee to the field of cell biology.
Although only two women are recognized each year, the attention focused on these two women by articles appearing in the ASCB Newsletter, their campus papers, and other media publicizes the contributions of women to the scientific endeavor. Recognition by the scientific community, and the nation as a whole, of the contribution of women to science continues to be an important goal of the WICB Committee.
Since 1986, we have witnessed a growth of representation by women in all facets of the ASCB. The WICB believe that their annual awards program, as well as their other activities, have played a crucial part in these advances. Over the years, the awards have continued essentially unchanged. The WICB views the awards as a valuable tradition that should be continued.
The call for nominations and eligibility guidelines for this year's WICB Career Recognition Awards appears in this issue of the ASCB newsletter (see below). The WICB urges you to submit nominations by the August 1, 1996 deadline. We are looking forward to bestowing the tenth anniversary Career Recognition Awards upon highly deserving cell biologists at the 1996 Congress & Meeting.
Call and Guidelines for the WICB Career Recognition Awards
The Senior Award will be given to a woman or man whose outstanding scientific achievements are coupled with a long-standing record of supporting women in science and mentoring both men and women in scientific careers. The Senior Award is reserved for an established scientist (i.e. full professor or equivalent).
Nominations should include the curriculum vitae of the nominee and a minimum of one letter of recommendation. Please send nominations by August 1, 1996 to Dorothy Doyle at the ASCB National Office, 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD, 20814. This year's recipients will be invited to accept their awards at the 6th International Congress on Cell Biology & 36th American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in San Francisco, December 7-11, 1996.
|WICB Sponsors "Career Issues in Cell Biology" Luncheon at Annual Meeting; Elizabeth Taparowsky|
Among the activities sponsored by the ASCB Women in Cell Biology Committee during the Thirty-fifth Annual Meeting of the ASCB was a luncheon focused on "Career Issues in Cell Biology." The luncheon was organized by WICB Committee members Sally Amero, Beth Burnside, and B.J. Taparowsky and was held on Monday, December 11. Nearly 400 meeting registrants attended this inaugural event.
WICB was prompted to organize this luncheon by the concerns of many ASCB members regarding the uncertainty of establishing or maintaining a scientific career in the face of shrinking research dollars and a highly competitive job market. This luncheon provided an opportunity for cell biologists to meet and to discuss issues of particular importance to them in small roundtable groups of 10 per table. The discussion at each table was moderated by an individual whose life experience provided participants with a source of information and advice on a particular topic. The discussion topics for the luncheon were selected to appeal to cell biologists in training (e.g., "how to get a good post-doctoral position" or "job application strategies"), to scientists establishing their careers (e.g., "getting tenure" or "developing collaborations"), and to seasoned professionals (e.g., "balancing service with productivity" or "dual career families"). Topics addressing nontraditional career options for cell biologists included "part-time positions," "careers in scientific writing and publishing," and "how to change careers." The popularity of these topics underscores the burgeoning trend to apply a degree in basic science to a broader career path. Perhaps the most important topic discussed at the luncheon was "career planning." All men and women of science must give serious thought to career planning so that they are able to seize exciting career opportunities when presented. This ability will be based, in part, on the knowledge and experience one has accumulated through formal training, carefully selected voluntary service, and professional contacts.
Society leadership embraced the "Career Issues in Cell Biology" luncheon—WICB was honored by the presence of five past ASCB presidents at the event: Betty Hay, Marilyn Farquhar, Mary Lou Pardue, Susan Gerbi and Ursula Goodenough and the president-elect for 1996-1997, Mina Bissell—all of whom graciously served as discussion leaders for various topics.
The positive response to the luncheon format from the ASCB membership spurred WICB Committee Chair Sue Shafer to put plans in motion for a second annual luncheon to be held during the 6th International Congress on Cell Biology/36th ASCB Annual Meeting in San Francisco, December 7-11, 1996. The 1996 luncheon, entitled "What to Do with Your Graduate Degree," will include several of the more popular topics from the 1995 program. Additional topics such as "marketing yourself in a global economy" and "international communication" may especially appeal to cell biologists from abroad who attend the meeting. WICB invites all ASCB members and meeting attendees to participate in the 1996 luncheon. All those interested in attending the luncheon must preregister on the Congress & Meeting pre-registration form. On-site registration will not be available due to scheduling constraints and the need for advanced planning. The official program announcement and advance registration details for the luncheon are in the Call for Abstracts for the 1996 Congress & Meeting.
"..., I want to let you know that I have also heard nothing but praise for the WICB lunch. The organization was extraordinary. Toward the end of the period, the folks at my table continued to explore other more personal issues relating to women working in science, exchanging stories and recommendations with one another. This discussion was particularly enjoyable and instructive due to the presence of two older women who were quite interested to tell of their own experiences and to inquire about situations today that either encourage or pose problems for women in science. Finally, we reluctantly tore ourselves away from the table around 2:30, all feeling very satisfied with and inspired by the gathering."
"Thanks for your heroic efforts in organizing this event. From my point of view it was a huge success!"
"I think these discussions were simply a GREAT IDEA, and I believe they would be useful on a regular basis. In addition to vehicles like luncheon discussions, maybe the ASCB (not only the WICB) could run Newsletter articles, and invite members to send in questions. Times are very tough these days, and mentorship towards career development is increasingly important. It seems a perfect issue for a professional society to tackle."
"Our discussion was very lively and interesting — everyone participated, and we all enjoyed it and gained new insights from it."
|11 ASCB Past-presidents Support Return to Affirmative Action for the Univ of California; Laura Williams|
The ASCB Women in Cell Biology Committee (WICB) recently discussed the controversy over affirmative action at the University of California. Caroline Kane of the University of California at Berkeley gave an update on the recent resolution of the Regents of the University of California to eliminate ethnicity and gender as factors in hiring and admissions. Relevant excerpts from the resolutions passed by the Board of Regents of the University follow:
The WICB Committee recommended that a letter in regard to the suggested affirmative action modification should be sent to the Regents of the University of California. The letter was signed by eleven past, present, and future presidents of the ASCB, and sent to the University of California Regents in December. As this newsletter was going to press, the University of California Regents had a meeting on January 18. At that meeting, they were asked to rescind their resolution or, at least, delay its implementation. It has since been learned that the implementation of the most controversial recommendations will be delayed. If ASCB members would like to express opinions to the Regents, letters may be addressed to: Office of the Regents of the University of California, 300 Lakeside Drive, 22nd Floor, Oakland CA 94612-3550.