Barriers to Women’s Advancement in Science

I recently received a copy of an article written in 2007 by Molly Carnes, MD and Judyann Bigby, MD.   One of the obstacles to the advancement of women in academic medicine is discussed in terms of the Jennifers vs the Janets.   Jennifers refer to the younger women who are just coming out of medical school, who may be junior faculty and are starting their careers with great optimism.   Janets are the women who graduated in the 1980s and are at the pinnacles of their careers–experienced, competent, and who have earned the competence for leadership positions.    At first, this sounded like a “cutesy” approach but if you consider that Jennifer is a very popular, hip name today, and Janet a more old-fashioned term, the irony works.

To give you some background on this issue, please look at the earlier blog from a few days ago, Sex, Science and Success.

In the Carnes-Bigby article, the authors discuss how men in academic medicine (referred to as Daves), always refer to the younger generation when  talking about how far we have come in advancing women in medicine.  The Jennifers seem to be pleased with this picture as they look forward to a rosy future.  Rarely, do the Daves  talk about the women who are at the peak of their careers but are overlooked for promotions (often given to other Daves).  Instead, the ‘seasoned’ women are appointed to committees and task forces that do little for their personal career trajectory.   Perhaps there is an underlining threat to Daves in putting well qualified women into leadership positions.  Hmmmm.   Kind of reminds me of “trophy” wives (if you are old enough to know that term!)

It’s an interesting premise and the article by Carnes and Bigby is provocative.