Virginia Valian: Why so slow?


Virginia Valian's book “Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women” is a scholarly and effective explanation of women's short progress in the professional world. In business, law, medicine, or academia, women are not advancing at the same rate as men. Women are not paid as well, they occupy lower positions. In her book Virginia Valian tries to explain why events like these happen. She argues that we all have unspoken, subconscious ideas concerning gender that influence both our behaviour and, perhaps even more significantly, our evaluations of one another. For example, we think men are logical, women are social; men are competent women are flaky. As a result men are consistently overrated and women underrated by co-workers, bosses and themselves. The resulting advantages and disadvantages may be small, but they accrue over time to create large gaps in advancement. What seems to happen is that men and women begin on approximately equal footing. They get almost the same salaries, and they start the same rank, assistant professor. However, the differences in their career paths are clear. Men earn more and they are being promoted at a quicker rate than women. One factor that people often raise in explaining the discrepancy is that men in academia publish more than women do, and publications, as we all know, are essential to academic success. Yet there are two points to be made about publication rates. First, even when you control for productivity, men still advance more rapidly than women. Second, although men publish comparatively more papers, women's papers have a higher citation rate, that is, they're referred to more often by other scientists. So women publish less, but if you take citation rate as a measure of quality, women publish better work. Unfortunately, university boards don't often explicitly consider publication quality when making decisions on promotion and tenure.

Women may fear or suspect that their work will not be evaluated in same way a man's, so they need more documentation to back up what they are saying.

Professor Virginia Valian will be present at the mid-term workshop of the Stages Project which will be held on March 25th in Brussels. ( see more info in the SPEED NEEWS Section).

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