30 September 2011

Booklist: Walking Out on the Boys

Frances Conley was the first woman ever appointed to a full professorship of neurosurgery at an American medical school. But she resigned due to sexual harassment, revealing tales of fondling in the operating room to Time magazine. In 1998, she published a tell-all book called Walking Out on the Boys.

The publication of this book coincided with the results of a 30-year MIT study on female faculty members. The study concluded that there was a generational pattern: that while junior faculty thought sexual discrimination was a thing of the past -- when they were promoted, they felt "invisible" and excluded.

One even wrote: "I mean literally not heard! Where you say something, and it's just ignored until one of your male colleagues says the same thing 10 minutes later!"

The study concluded that "in no case was this discrimination conscious or deliberate. Indeed, it was usually totally unconscious and unknowing. Nevertheless, the effects are real."

Between the 1960's and 1990s, there was a big increase in the number of women earning Ph.D.s in math, science, and engineering. Yet, the number of female research faculty members at MIT remained at 9%.

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