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AWIS in Action! February 2013 - Fem Mystique
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AWIS In Action!

 Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter   ~   February 2013
In This Issue
   The Feminine Mystique for Scientists
This week marked the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking work, The Feminine Mystique, hailed by many as the book which initiated the second wave of feminism. The book admittedly focuses on the plight of the white, middle to upper class bored housewife who feels she isn’t living her life to the fullest of potential, and thus many women of color, women who had to work, and other marginalized women in society felt that it didn’t reflect their own story. Then again, it was Friedan’s first book; I doubt she could have anticipated that it would help launch a cultural revolution. Either way, people have been talking about it for the last 50 years. Much recent discussion has focused on benchmarking the success of the feminist movement and what still needs to be accomplished.
This brings us to the next big tide of issues both for women in science as well as society writ large. Why are women still opting to leave? Are these still problems with no name? Maybe not.
Women are still paid less than men for the same work and many are actively fighting against making equal pay an achievable goal. Even in STEM jobs, women still make about 87 cents on the dollar compared to men for equal work.
We are one of only a few nations in the world that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. The handful of other places that fail to provide such accommodations include Papua New Guinea and Liberia. This is a losing situation for both women and the economy as it leads to more turnover than is necessary, costing government and industry many millions of dollars each year in lost productivity. Balancing responsibilities doesn’t get easier from there. 28.5% of women still worry that a career in science is incompatible with raising a happy, healthy family.
Women still face discrimination, though less overtly, despite the progress made in the past 50 years by those who have been in the fight. A recent study demonstrated that even in academics, women are viewed as less competent, less desirable of a hire, less worthy of mentoring, and deserving of a lower salary.
Promotion to the top of food chain in academia or industry is still rare for women. Married women with children and a Ph.D. are 35% less likely than a married man with kids to get tenure, and 28% less likely than women without kids to get tenure. Only 13% of medical school deans were women as of 2010. Women currently make up only 4% of all Fortune 500 CEOs. Until we find a better way to help families balance the work required to advance their careers with the demands of modern life, including raising kids and caring for aging parents, we may find it challenging to further grow our ranks.
To avoid ending this only a downward note, it is worth mentioning that to someone of the third wave, reading descriptions of life at the beginning of the second wave 50 years ago really gives one a tremendous sense of appreciation for all the fighting, successfully, that has already been done. It is inconceivable to someone of my generation that we might have to ask a husband for permission to work, be denied access to credit without a husband’s signature, or to even have recourse against sexual harassment. We read of that with a mix of fascination and horror, and have many fierce advocates from all walks of life and of both genders to thank for the fact that our society has progressed beyond those times.
In This Issue
© 2016 AWIS
Association for Women in Science
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