What's the gender ratio of your references for letters of recommendation?

Jun 12 2013 Published by under Issues in Science, Late-stage PhD student

A few weeks ago while going through old resumes and updating my CV, I noticed that my references have historically been women-centric. I started wondering what the gender ratios were like for other people's references, so I threw this question out into the Twitterealm.

Here were some of the responses:

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What's the gender ratio of your references?

  1. Peoples - what is the gender ratio of your references?
  2. @AmasianV Mostly men. Most of them seem to be called "Al".
  3. @AmasianV all women currently. Historically about 3/4 women.
  4. Depends on job/app. For any single app my range was 0-33% female. MT @AmasianV: what is the gender ratio of your letter writers?
  5. @AmasianV @27andaphd 50/50. The strongest and most influential = female.
  6. @AmasianV @27andaphd Most of my women colleagues very familiar w/ me and my work are at similar stage as I am, grad students, postdocs, etc.
  7. @AmasianV @27andaphd I've met more senior women who do great work in my field, but I don't know them well enough to ask for reccomendation
  8. @AmasianV @27andaphd Oh, absolutely. In my case it's just a matter of probabilities of being in same place/same time and getting their time
  9. @AmasianV @27andaphd Just like any other important, more senior researcher that I want to know well.
  10. @AmasianV @N3OX fo sho. Sadly, I've only had 1 female mentor in my field since I started grd school 10 yrs ago #structuralbiology

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Will I see more "historic first" inaugurations in my life?

Jan 21 2013 Published by under Asian Americanism

Today, President Obama took the oath of office and gave the inaugural address of his 2nd term, perhaps poignantly on Martin Luther King day. I still remember the disbelief I felt four years ago when Obama was elected president--to be honest, I never thought I'd see a black president. Now just four years later, President Obama's second, and also historic, inauguration has given me the audacity to wonder if I will see any other historic "firsts" in my life*.

First woman president? Hillary Clinton seems poised to have the best chance, but now I wonder if she'll run anymore given her age and health. First non-Christian president? Seems unlikely anytime soon, although some will go to great lengths to argue that we currently already have one. A LGBT president is even more doubtful, but some historians speculate that that title already belongs to President James Buchanan. How about Latino/Hispanic? Surely, one of these Latino American leaders must have presidential ambitions.

And of course, how could I forget a first Asian American president? Does Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal have a shot? So far, the closest we've come to sniffing an Asian American presidency is probably the late Senator Daniel Inouye who at the time of his passing was President Pro Tempore of the US Senate, and therefore third in line of presidential succession.

I wonder if America, after Obama's two terms, would be ready for some more history-making so soon. Or will the US suffer from some sort of "firsts"-fatigue syndrome and slip into another era of white dude presidents?

*This also had the unintended and depressing effect of viewing my life in terms of how many presidential election cycles I have left.

13 responses so far

Is there a bamboo ceiling for Asians in science?

Jan 18 2013 Published by under Asian Americanism, Science

First let me say that I've never liked the term "bamboo ceiling." It always sounded a little too culturally forced* to me. And in terms of imagery, it flat out sucks. Glass ceiling? At least with glass you walk away with the impression that you can shatter through it. But bamboo? That shit is hard. Like indestructible hard. Doesn't quite inspire much confidence in breaking through it now does it?

Earlier this month in Nature Jobs, Lilian Gomory Wu and Wei Jing argue that the path to leadership roles in science is impeded for Asians in the US:

In academia, just 42% of Asian men are tenured, compared with 58% of white men, 49% of black men and 50% of Hispanic men. Just 21% of Asian women in academia are tenured, the lowest proportion for any ethnicity or gender. They are also least likely to be promoted to full professor.

Similar numbers exist for industry and the federal workforce they report, and this graph was included in the tl;dr blog post:

The take home: Asians were attaining leadership positions (like PI-ships) at a lower clip than other ethnicities (although, I wonder at what rate do Asians apply or seek out managerial positions, comparatively speaking). Wu and Jing identify several possible reasons for this disparity that mainly derive from the "model minority" stereotype:

hardworking and patient, family oriented, good at maths and science and having a strong work ethic, but also humble, non-confrontational and lacking the passion to be charismatic leaders.

Many of these have been used to explain the relative absence of Asians in company boardrooms, CEOs, and the like, so it's not totally unreasonable for these explanations to apply to the sciences as well. Take, for example, how Eastern ideas of leadership--where Asians are more likely to let their actions do the talking over...well talking--are lost in translation. This can give the impression that Asians are passive or indifferent. Another possible reason is the language barrier, which can be prohibitive in writing successful grants and papers. These issues, of course, are biased towards our foreign-born, transplanted colleagues, of which there are many in science.

In 2009, Asians — defined as people from the Far East, southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent — made up 78% of doctoral recipients with temporary visas who were planning to work in the United States.

Looking at 2008 demographic numbers from the NSF, there were 2,038,000 Asians employed as scientists and engineers: 58.9% were naturalized US citizens while 21.3% were non-US citizens. For comparison, of Black or Hispanic scientists and engineers, only 3.3% and 7.4% were non-US citizens, respectively. That being said, and particularly concerning to me, Wu and Jing also point to the perception that Asians are "forever foreign." Meaning that no matter how acculturated Asians are or become, these standards might still be unfairly applied.

As for solutions, they suggest re-evaluating cultural differences in leadership and communication skills--which basically sounds like cultural sensitivity training to me. Yet, they also put the onus on Asians to "seek training in communication, assertiveness and leadership skills." Soooo...which is it?

And what does it say about the fact that under the Comments section of the blog post it reads: "There are currently no comments"? Now, I wasn't exactly expecting my Asian colleagues to tear it up in the comments (hell, I don't know if anyone comments on Nature blog posts). It's quite possible that neither the article nor the blog post isn't reaching an Asian audience--and without social sharing/altmetrics-like data available, how am I to gauge dissemination? But that no one has voiced any opinion at all certainly doesn't help silence any of the Asian stereotypes.


Ceiling With Mud and Bamboo

Is this my view when I look up?

*Someone recently suggested to me that the phrase be changed to "glass noodle ceiling."

Related Reading:

How committed is NIH to addressing its race problem? Hint: kinda sorta



9 responses so far