Friday, May 1, 2009

Supporting women in AM?

Pascale Lane, a professor and blogger from my very own place, wrote a great letter about advice to her daughter as part of the "Letters to our Daughters" project started by Isis the Scientist. As my own daughter will start middle school soon, this letter seems like good advice!

I've often wondered whether I do enough to encourage women in my profession - as a male in a department DOMINATED by males I perhaps should worry about it more. Whenever I've served on search committees I've always gone in with the notion of pushing women candidates as hard as possible - but this is where my efforts go awry, because there often are no women candidates, or the women that do apply are so far down the list of candidates by any objective measure that its impossible to get them on the short list no matter how one tries to skew the numbers. I mean really really far down. So where are all the women applicants?

I've heard that many capable women scientists bail between grad school and academia, but in our case even that is hard to believe. I worry that our department is stuck in a kind of alternate stable state - qualified women don't apply *because* we are dominated by men. Many departments at UNL have used opportunity hires very successfully to dig themselves out of this state, but we're not so good at that - at least not since I've been here. The only tactic I've been able to think of is to actively seek out women that might be interested in a position and ask them to apply - but that kind of cold call requires a certain chutzpah that is in short supply for me. Any other ideas welcome.

Something to think about as I go about training students to become leaders in AM.

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