I complain a lot about the US. I do so lovingly, though it may not
seem that way. The US is my country, and if I have any patriotism in
me, it is in the firm belief that I need to do everything I can to
make my country better than it is (in the direction I believe is
better of course... opinions may differ about whether my better vector
actually is). Now that I've moved away, I have a clearer perspective on
the strengths an weaknesses of my country. Nothing I didn't know in
principal before, but some things have come into sharper focus over
these last few months.
I spend most of my time living in what some 'Mer'cans would call
"Socialist States." In some ways its great. I don't need to own a car;
there's decent public transportation. I don't have to worry about
healthcare. My partner's doctor apologized for how expensive it was to
fill a perscription ($13). He almost laughed out loud. Our
universities deal with our pensions. There are humane maternity
benefits and childcare becomes affordable after the age of 3. I feel
like I've walked into a dream.
"It's so nice having another girl around" says the female grad student
from the office next door.
"We're not the only woman in this department?" I ask. I swear I've
talked to other female grad students, and I know there is a female
professor, but I'm still a bit disoriented, waking up from my dream.
"There's A and B, and of course Professor C, but you are the only
woman in this building."
Shit. I've talked to _all_ of the women in my subdepartment, and it is about the size of my previous department. In the States, I'm used to 25% gradstudents
being female, and 2 in 10 professors being female. The postdocs slices
of departments I've seen are small enough that I don't want to draw
generalizations. Here, the numbers a are less than 1 in 10 female grad
students, and 1 in female professor in 15.
In the states, my partner sees a minority of female faculty in his
field, but it hovers between 35-45% female in high ranked
departments. His field is much more self conscious about this gender
disparity than mine is. His current department is closer to 1 in 5
female faculty, heavily concentrated in a non-mathematical
subfield. He's asked around, and it seems that this gender
distribution is normal, not an outlier.
Where have all the women gone?