Women in Physics and Medicine: Closing the Gender Pay Gap, Increasing Respect, and Decreasing Burnout
New studies on women in physics and medicine find continuing disparities in pay and promotions. Audrey Williams June, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, reports the results of a new study by the Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics showing a gender pay gap of 6 percent for female faculty members in physics. The study also found that men are overrepresented in senior faculty roles and that women receive fewer grants for research and lab space.
For women in medicine, the issues can be severe. Dhruv Khullar of the New York Times reports that female physicians
The tidal wave of public accusations and firings of high-profile men for sexual harassment and assault, known as the #MeToo movement, has swept across several sectors and industries in recent weeks, including technology, entertainment, finance, and government. But not everyone who experiences sexual harassment and assault as an employee feels included in the #MeToo movement. Hotel and blue-collar workers are often invisible victims of sexual harassment for whom participating in the #MeToo movement either is too dangerous or does not help them.
What do Rosa Parks, #MeToo, the Women’s March on Washington and the Pussyhat Project, Black Lives Matter, and Colin Kaepernick have in common? They all represent long-term protests against sexual assault or racial injustice—protests that are an essential part of our democracy.
The recent explosion of sexual harassment accusations against high-profile men and the outpouring of painful sexual harassment experiences in #MeToo messages on Twitter from women (and some men) across the globe have, as reported by Nellie Bowles, shocked many men into reflecting on their own behavior. My own partner, a devoted feminist, began to question whether any of his actions might have recently caused discomfort for a woman friend. In our discussions he agreed with a recent observation by Charles M. Blow of the New York Times that he (Blow) has male privilege because he is over six feet tall, weighs more than 200 pounds, and never has to think about being sexually assaulted or harassed. This male privilege can make him and other men blind or oblivious to the impact of their actions on women, even when they think they are just being friendly. Blow also makes the point that, as a man, being a good listener and understanding women’s experiences intellectually does not equate to having the lived experience of physical vulnerability and multiple occurrences of sexual harassment that many women have.
There is something in the news almost every day about sexual harassment and sexual assault. These subjects have also come up in every social gathering I’ve been part of in recent weeks, whether the groups are all women or mixed gender groups of friends and colleagues. It is easy to grasp how powerful men like Bill O’Reilly of Fox News; Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer; and Bill Cosby, the entertainer, could get away with harassing and assaulting young women for decades by paying them millions of dollars to keep silent when they complained. It is also easy to understand the power that these men wielded over the careers of young women, power that may have fed a narcissistic predatory tendency (remember the Access Hollywood tape?). What is not as easy to understand is how some people can become sexual harassers or abusers when they are not rich and famous. How does this behavior begin and develop?
Women have always found ways to help each other survive racism and sexism in the workplace by meeting informally outside of work for validation and support. This support might be in the form of listening to and understanding stories of mistreatment; sharing tips for how to deal with discrimination, salary negotiation, and work-life balance; or sharing the names of sexual predators to increase a woman’s ability to protect herself at work. Women across the decades and occupations have always benefited from this type of support in safe spaces such as living rooms and coffee shops. But the rise of the internet has opened important new forms of safe space.
The flood of sexual harassment accusations against and firings of powerful men—such as Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News; comedian Bill Cosby; Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein; and Silicon Valley executives Travis Kalanick, Dave McClure, Justin Caldbeck, and Mike Cagney—can seem like a raging river that will change the sexual harassment landscape forever. But only time will tell if that is the case. Below are some recent sexual harassment cases brought to light by courageous women and men stepping forward to tell their stories—now that they feel people are actually listening to them:
In business and in politics, few women have made it to the top—none in politics in the United States, as seen with Hillary Clinton’s recent loss in the 2016 presidential race. And Catalyst reports that the percentage of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies has been stuck at 5 percent for a very long time. Why has there been so little progress?
Several high-profile cases in the news in recent months seem to reflect attitudes about the treatment of women changing for the better in Silicon Valley. These are the most notable examples:
- Dave McClure, the founder of the start-up incubator 500 Startups, resigned after admitting to sexual harassment. Later investigation revealed that the company had covered up an earlier sexual harassment charge against him by keeping the investigation confidential.
- Binary Capital imploded after several women lodged sexual harassment charges against Justin Caldbeck.
- Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned after former company engineer Susan Fowler published a blog detailing a history of sexual harassment at Uber.
When my cousin’s daughter was five or six years old, she was obsessed with becoming a professional baseball player. She would only wear a baseball uniform, including a baseball cap for her favorite team, and was rarely without her catcher’s mitt. It broke my heart to know that she would never be able to realize her dream because she was female. That was a long time ago, but not much has changed for women in professional baseball. For this reason, I found it inspiring to read about two women who are pioneers in the sport: Jessica Mendoza and Claire Smith. They are ESPN baseball analysts and journalists who are battling sexism in the sport to have their talents recognized. My niece never had a chance to see women in these roles when she was young. While not in center field, sports analysts and journalists are still important roles.