More than 20 years that have passed since the National Committee on Pay Equity first called for action on the gender wage gap. But not much has changed. Women continue to earn less than men, and research shows that women often have less successful salary negotiations, sacrificing tens of thousands of dollars in future earnings. As a woman who works in the tech industry, I often find myself asking: What will it take to truly drive change and close the gender wage gap?
For me, the answer is data.
After I graduated with a PhD in Astrophysics from UC Berkeley, I was interviewing for a job as a data scientist in San Francisco. My prospective new boss said, “I know you make about $14,000 a year as a graduate student at Berkeley, I’m going to offer you more than that.” And he did! Imagine my excitement when my starting salary was much more than my graduate stipend.
At the time, I had no idea what I should be making, nor did I know how to negotiate, as my last “job” had been in a completely different industry. What’s more, I had no other comparable offers to use as a baseline. I attempted to a higher salary because I was told that you always should, but I was ultimately unsuccessful.
Today's guest blogger, Misty Bentz, is an Assistant (nay, Associate!)
Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Georgia State
is an expert at making black hole mass measurements using reverberation
mapping techniques, which she uses to study the broad line region and
the relationship between AGN and their host galaxies. Misty's post is
the second in a new series of blogs (the first is here) that describe
how instructors tackle social justice issues in their physics and
For the past few years, I have been teaching a required course for entering physics majors, “Gateway to Physics”, at Georgia State University. The course is intended to introduce students to the wide world of exciting physics research and (hopefully) kindle their enthusiasm for studying physics even as they work through their introductory courses.
To this end, we don’t spend time solving problems about balls rolling down inclined planes. Instead, the course is formatted as a seminar that meets once per week for 2 hours and is centered around visits from physics and astronomy faculty, each visitor spending an hour discussing their research and their physics subfield. The students also have semester-long group projects where they independently explore a physics topic to learn the current state of the field (past topics have included wormholes, spacecraft propulsion, extremophiles, quantum computing, biomimicry, and skyscraper design). The last meeting of the semester is a “behind the scenes” tour of several physics research labs.
Today's guest post is by Nicole Cabrera Salazar. Nicole is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at Georgia State University. She plans to pursue a career in science communication/outreach focusing on equity in STEM.
Back in December I opened up about taking a break from writing my dissertation to focus on my mental health. As scary as it was to walk away from research, it turned out to be the right choice for me. Here, I highlight the lessons I learned during this difficult time.
1. Depression Lies
If you’ve never experienced depression, it can be hard to understand what it feels like. The best way I can describe it is that my brain was constantly lying to me. The very things that would have helped me overcome the depression were the things my brain was telling me to avoid. I withdrew from everyone around me, even though just a short phone call with my family would have made me feel better. I stayed in my apartment for days, when a brief walk outside would have lifted my spirits. My brain also said that I would never feel better. The hardest part was gathering the energy to actively fight those lies so I could start the process of getting better.
Every university needs an office where students/postodcs/faculy/staff can talk anonymously about harassment. For lack of a better name, I am going to refer to it as the Office of Good Advice. This office must be fundamentally separate from the Affirmative Action office, University Counsel, or University Police, all of which are responsible for reporting under Title IX. Office of Good Advice should be well known to everyone on campus, it should be staffed with trained professionals, and it should be the first thing that comes up on a web search for “sexual harassment.” Anyone on campus who needs to talk about harassment issues should know which university employees are obligated to report incidents and which can keep reports confidential.
Every university needs an Office of Good Advice not only because students fear that they might be pressed to make a formal, legally viable report, but also because the staff in the legally responsible offices are often, with no malicious intent, unable to listen objectively and sensitively. Students might later report that they were asked intimidating and inappropriate questions that appeared to undermine the validity of their complaint like, “Were you drinking?” or “Are you unhappy with your grade in his course?” No matter how well-meaning, staff members in offices responsible for upholding the law cannot help but be influenced by that responsibility and by knowing the requirements of an investigation.