Helping Women Achieve in Academic Science

Not Just in Academia

Us Highway System in 1926, Dept. Of Agriculture, US Government

Us Highway System in 1926, Dept. Of Agriculture, US Government

While recently at the wedding of my BestFriend, and fellow WomanOfScience turned OfficialWomanOfGovernment/Science, I ran into a number of women and men who I overlapped with in graduate school. It was great to reconnect, and surprising, since my BestFriend is  from my undergraduate years at SmallLiberalArtsSchool4Women. The FriendsFromGradSchool turned out to have been good friends with my BestFriend’s new HusbandOfGovernment/Science. It is interesting when networks reconnect and make a circle. And it reminds you how small the science community really is.

I took this opportunity to reconnect with these NiceGuysOfScience and these AmazingWomenOfScience, and rebuild some of my dilapidated career network. I see my career network as a lateral expanse, much like the road system of the United States. Sometimes, the roads can become a bit run-down, and when you get the opportunity, it is good to reconnect and make repairs.

I was very impressed with these WomenOfScience. They spanned all types of careers and many points along the career trajectory including some WomenPostdocsOfScience, ScienceWomenOfGovernment (some of whom were on a forced vacation), BigShots at PrivateUniversities, and WomanOfIndustrialScience. I have asked them, as I ask you every post, to help other WomenOfScience by posting to this blog. They all seemed very positive, so I hope to bring you some of their stories shortly.

I was most intrigued by WomanOfIndustrialScience. I am always looking for ways to branch my network into industry because you never know when it can help your work or help your student. I feel I am particularly bad at mentoring students who want to go into industrial jobs because I never pursued that path, and I do not have many friends/colleagues who went that route, either.

I was asking my reconnected friend about how it was to be a WomanOfIndustrialScience to get more information for me and students on that path. Maybe because I don’t have direct experience with industrial science, I had it in my mind that it could be better there for women(?).  In chatting, I realized that industrial science is fraught with just as much peril for women’s careers as academic science. On the bad side, it seems like science is difficult for women in either area – academia or industry. This is likely due to the fact that society as a whole does not think of science as women’s work.

On the good side: There does seem to be some advantages to industrial science jobs over academia. Most importantly, it seems that in industry you have the ability to remove yourself from bad situations more easily. Bad bosses could be reported to HR, be moved, be fired, or be sued. It seems like if they are bad bosses to women, they are often bad bosses to dude’s too, and they don’t last too long. From the outside, the option of litigation appears to be more prevalent and perhaps more effective, in industry than academia. Suing in academia certainly means losing your job and career because it is unlikely you will be hired by another school. While suing in industry may not preclude you from getting another job in industry.

But, most women in science are not so litigious. Another option: you can move. You could move laterally within a company or move to a new company. It seems much faster and more fluid in industry than in academia.  In academia, job applications take 12 months instead of 2, as they are in industry. So, even if you are trying to get away from a bad situation in academia, you often have to live with it for many months or even years while you are trying to move. If the bad guys know you are trying to move on, they can even sabotage you, and make your move impossible. Add on top the fact that, in academia, you will likely need to move to a new state and uproot your family, and you might need to resolve a TwoBodyProblem, and the thought of the endeavor could be paralyzing. So, it seems to me that industrial science jobs might be less stressful on these fronts.

Hopefully, we will get more posts from WomanOfIndustrialScience on these topics and more. Do you have something to add? Post or comment. As always, you can follow this blog by clicking the +Follow button. Hope to hear from you!

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