Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Promoting Equality in America

In the November 12, 2010 AASWomen newsletter, the third item discussed CONSTELLATION, a European Commission (EC) FP6 Marie Curie Research Training Network, as a potential model program to promote women in astronomy. Although not an original goal, approximately 50% women and 50% men were hired from those that were trained through the network. Although no statistics were available at that time on the salaries of the women and men hired through the network, a follow-up interview with the original coordinator of CONSTELLATION, Prof. Mark McCaughrean (Univ. of Exeter, School of Physics), provided those statistics which will be discussed in the December 10, 2010 issue of AASWomen.

With American women's current wage being 78.2% of American men's (AASWomen October 1, 2010, #4) and American women lacking advancement into tenure positions compared with men (AASWomen October 20, 2009, #4), should American women leave for employment in Europe to induce equality for women in America? Should America forge a similar network to induce equality at least at the researcher level? Or can similar illustrations of best-practice programs be found in America?

Attrition of women in science from America to Europe, I would argue, would help future American women in science if enough women took this stance today. On a $100,000 US dollar man's salary, women could work today in Europe on this equivalent salary and frequently travel back to the US with the extra $21,800 they would make working in Europe.

Maybe forging a similar network in the USA might overall be the better option if one is already not in place. Of course, even this network would not solve the problems overall. From my own experience in US academia, women and men may be hired in nearly equal numbers with nearly equal pay at an institution but over time, men seem to acquire the higher average salary raises and/or bonuses. But that is another problem for another day. For now, I'll think about how my quality of life may improve on that additional 21.8% that I may earn by working in science in Europe...