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
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.
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.
As a member of the hiring committee of a nonprofit’s board of trustees, I recently worked with an executive search firm to fill a CEO vacancy in the organization. The search firm representative asked us if we wanted to screen out women over fifty from the candidate pool. We were surprised and asked, “Why would we?” The reply was, “Most of our clients won’t consider hiring women over fifty, and we don’t want to waste your time or ours by including them if you want us to screen them out.” Wow! This question was asked quietly, since it is illegal to discriminate based on age, but it was asked because this dynamic is so prevalent.
For some time now, technology companies have acknowledged that women are underrepresented in their companies in technology and leadership positions. Both large and small companies in Silicon Valley have publicly announced their intentions to increase the representation of women and minorities in their ranks, yet not much progress has been made.
Progress has been very slow for women’s advancement in law firms. Why is this the case? As Elizabeth Olson of the New York Times reports, women are
- Slightly over 50 percent of current law school graduates (and have been for a long time)
- Under 35 percent of lawyers at law firms
- Only 20 percent of equity partners, where the highest compensation and best opportunities for leadership exist
Olson cites a recent study by Anne Urda of Law360 that found that “only nine of 300 firms surveyed had a lawyer work force that was 50 percent or more female.”
Here is a piece of good news for all of us: women’s involvement in politics is skyrocketing. The ways to get involved are endless, including petitioning Congress, attending meetings and rallies for causes you support, holding elected officials accountable for their votes, registering voters, and running for office. Running for office can include running for school board, town council, state legislature, governor, or US Congress. Gail Collins of the New York Times writes that “groups that help prepare women to run for office are reporting an unprecedented number of website visits, training-school sign-ups and meeting attendance.”
When President Trump and Melania Trump visited France this July, President Trump’s first action was to look First Lady of France Brigitte Macron up and down and pronounce her to be “fit.” Trump said to her, “You’re in such good shape.” He then turned to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and said, “She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.” Clearly uncomfortable, Brigitte Macron grabbed Melania’s arm and stepped back away from Trump. This incident was broadcast live around the world.
What message does it send when the American President treats the First Lady of France like a sex object?
Many women and men are still wary of working together when their work requires them to have one-on-one meetings or to travel together for business. New research reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reveals that almost two-thirds of the 5,282 registered voters surveyed by the New York Times say, “People should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work.” Miller notes that these results also partially explain “why women still don’t have the same opportunities as men. . . . They [women] are treated differently.”
First, the good news: dozens of women have been speaking out about sexual harassment in the workplace in recent months, bringing their upsetting experiences into the light and out of the shadows after a long period of silence about this issue in organizations. Understandably, women have been coming forward slowly either because of pressure to stay silent or justifiable fear of negative consequences to their careers. Gretchen Carlson spoke out at Fox News and brought about the firing of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, and other women gained courage from her example to tell their stories of sexual harassment at Fox.