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The Scientific Career Ladder: Strategies for Success

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Below is my summary of a talk, "The Scientific Career Ladder: Strategies for Success," given on June 22, at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center by Catherine Jay Didion, ( executive director of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). The organization has 76 chapters and over 6,000 members nation-wide. The URL is: 

Rick Reis 

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* AWIS is the association FOR women in science, not OF women in science. It welcomes men who support its goals and it sees men as "part of the solution, not part of the problem." 

* While attraction of women into science study and into science careers is important, so is their retention in these areas. 

* Women in particular need affirmation that they are not alone in the problems they experience as students and as professionals. Men tend to blame external factors for their difficulties, women tend to blame internal factors, i.e. themselves. 

* In a recent survey of graduate students in science, 85% of the men, but only 57% of the women said that "others in their department treated them as colleagues." 

* Women need to try out a variety of coping strategies, even ones that seem awkward at first. Like "trying on cloths, if they don't fit you can discard them." 

* The "tyranny of the token," refers to the fact that women (and minorities) have to tread a fine line between acting like their white male counterparts and being who they are. 

* Men and women have very similar ambitions in terms of postdoc, academic, and industrial careers in science. 

* According to the AWIS project on academic climate, the following are the top issues that all faculty say need to be addressed at their academic institutions: 

* Recruitment, hiring, and retention 

* Tenure and promotion 

* Dual careers 

* Family and work 

* Communication 

* Mentoring faculty 

* Mentoring students 

* Informal networking/socializing 

* Career development 

* Young faculty face a large number of often conflicting demands on their time. "Tenure is never having to say, 'Gee, I'd love to serve on that committee'." 

* Women face the "three clock problem: (1) the biological clock, the (2) institution clock, and (3) their partner's clock." 

* Successful women in industrial science careers say they have become so by: 

* consistently exceeding expectations (77%) 

* developing styles with which male managers are comfortable (61%) 

* Seeking out difficult assignments (50%) 

* Having influential mentor(s) (37%) 

* Three things (there are more) women can do to improve their science career success and satisfaction: 

(1) Get involved in their professional societies, support is available. 

(2) Seek (apply for) external awards, they bring validation from peers. 

(3) Seek out and talk with colleagues, and not just those "above you." Often, "horizontal mentors" can provide support at they move on to other positions and organization.